Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Does Humility Make a Better Military Officer? Investigating Psychological Safety as an Explanatory Mechanism, Examining Superiors' Perceptions of Potential and the Effect of Gender, and Exploring Humility in West Point Cadets
by Swain, Jordon Edwin, Ph.D., Yale University, 2017, 163; 10783467
Abstract (Summary)

Leader humility has been linked to a number of positive outcomes such as greater employee satisfaction, lower turnover intention, enhanced group creativity, and improved team performance. However, the study of humility is still in its relative infancy. Questions remain about what causal mechanisms link humility to the various positive outcomes it appears to engender, how contextual differences may affect humility's outcomes and how it functions, and how those interested can easily and accurately gauge an individual's level of humility. This dissertation addresses some of these outstanding questions. It comprises three papers that employed a combination of experimental, cross-sectional, meta-analysis, and text analysis methods to examine humility in a military context or during tasks in which select members of the military regularly engage. The first chapter proposed and tested a causal model to explain how leader humility affects the performance of a team pursuing a highly interdependent task in a virtual environment – much like military analysts coordinating electronically with geographically dispersed entities trying to compile a complete set of data to address mission requirements. Results from three experiments revealed that humble leaders are liked more by those they are in charge of and that they induce a greater sense of psychological safety in the teams they lead compared to their less humble counterparts. However, while conducting a hidden profile task, humble leaders did not appear to affect information flow or group performance any differently than leaders who are not humble. The second chapter examined how behaving humbly affects assessments of leadership potential among officers in the United States Army - with an added emphasis on exploring potential gender differences in how humble leaders are perceived. Results from a combination of four studies (one cross-sectional and three experimental) found that, contrary to what is hypothesized in the extant literature, humility is valued in the Army, although it may not be the only leader quality that positively affects perceptions of leadership potential. Further, results from a mini meta-analysis of the experimental data from the second chapter found that gender moderated the relationship between humility and perceptions of potential in the military, with men receiving more benefit from acting humbly than women. The third and final chapter in this dissertation proposed and tested a unique, unobtrusive means of assessing humility in a sample of cadets from the United States Military Academy and examined whether humility predicts their military performance at West Point. This final chapter also examined the effect gender has on humility's utility as a leader characteristic in the military. Results revealed that the proposed unobtrusive means of assessing humility possessed modest convergent validity, while proving to be a moderately significant predictor of military performance, even after controlling for several other demographic and experience related variables. No significant interaction between humility and gender in terms of their effect on military performance was noted.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brescoll, Victoria
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 79/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Educational psychology, Organizational behavior, Military studies
Keywords: Humble, Humility, Leader, Leadership, Military
Publication Number: 10783467
ISBN: 978-0-355-70933-9
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