Leadership, innovation and strategy development in military hard structures: Bringing chaos to order

DProf thesis

DeMarco, J. William 2023. Leadership, innovation and strategy development in military hard structures: Bringing chaos to order. DProf thesis Middlesex University Business and Law
TypeDProf thesis
Doctorate by public works thesis
TitleLeadership, innovation and strategy development in military hard structures: Bringing chaos to order
AuthorsDeMarco, J. William

This thesis is a critical engagement with the development of leadership for officers in the United States Air Force (USAF) at the USAF’s Air University (AU) through specially designed graduate level education courses in leadership and innovation. These programs have been in regular demand and requests for their dissemination to various other parts of the military are frequent. They are also the seed bed for a number of change initiatives and graduates are to be found at the highest level of decision making. This responsibility to anticipate the future and contribute to supporting officers to lead in increasing complexity, requires me to be constantly questioning myself, my own leadership, my ideas and the ideas of others to inform the design and ongoing evolution of these programs. This evolution is nudged not only from questioning but from the input of students, faculty, and staff in a collaborative endeavor. The context is leadership in, what I refer to as, a ‘hard structure’, one that is heavily regulated and bureaucratized with non-negotiable expectations of its members in service to the protection of systems of security, from economy and law enforcement to trade and civil liberties. In the context of this particular hard structure of the military, the mandate to safeguard a nation’s institutions and alliances can also be a mandate to kill on small and large scales, if ordered to, in the interests of national and international security. This critique has brought into greater awareness the ambiguities, contradictions, and paradoxes faced by military leadership; it questions whether existing formulaic models are relevant to practice in field conditions and tracks my search for concepts as translational devices to negotiate opposing tensions and to see the possibilities in ‘the middle way’. I collaborate with students, peers, and literature to enable leadership and innovation education to shift from a monoperspective to a multi-perspective lens and from leadership as some form of mono-discipline to a multidisciplinary one. I explore the relevance of approaches and concepts including transdisciplinary perspectives as complementary ways to approach leadership for the future. While innovation is part of the leadership portfolio, I arrive at the need to introduce strategy into that portfolio and have set in motion an initiative to integrate all three into a Master’s program that stretches not only the skills of young officers but their imagination. I can now articulate more clearly the concepts, ideas and distilled experience that informs the content and the delivery of the leadership and innovation programs– a transparency of my own understanding including (i) context is pivotal (ii) once leaders understand and are comfortable with their ‘being’ they will be confident to seek cognitive diversity to complement any perceived or actual ‘weaknesses’ in themselves (iii) this in turn results in strong, cohesive teams where individuals can feel less inhibited in expressing and comprehending their strengths and can strive to help each other flourish with an understanding that leaders can only be as great as the teams they create.

Sustainable Development Goals16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
Middlesex University ThemeSustainability
Department nameBusiness and Law
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print05 Apr 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Apr 2023
Accepted08 Mar 2023
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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