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A Phenomenological Study of Identity Construction among Military Officers Promoted from the Middle Ranks to the Roles of Senior Leaders Open Access

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This phenomenological study investigated the lived experience of identity construction during a military officer's role change from the middle ranks to senior leader. This role change encompassed education, training, and work experiences over the course of several years between the initial selection for advancement and the first official duty assignment in a senior leader position. The inquiry focused on active duty U.S. Amy officers in the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (promotable) and the construction of their identities as senior leaders during this multi-year process. The officers' narratives provided insight into how the role change affected their self-concepts and how they coped with the challenges of ascending to a more complex environment with greater responsibilities to both the Army and the Nation.The population for this phenomenological inquiry was purposefully sampled using a criterion-based selection. Interviews with the resulting twelve participants were conducted in accordance with Seidman's (2013) three-interview method. Through applying Moustakas' (1994) phenomenological method of data analysis, eleven themes emerged, resulting in a composite textural and structural description that presented the meanings and essences of the identity construction experience.The following three conclusions resulted from the analysis. The first was that the identity transition expected by the Army is only partially occurring due to a combination of organizational and cultural barriers. The second conclusion was that assuming the mantle of senior leadership is an especially human endeavor, driven more by relationships, character, and mentoring than skills and competencies. The third conclusion was that the study of identity construction requires a more nuanced appreciation toward ambivalent reactions to the work situation and the various ways one may exit. Implications include potential enhancements to Kira & Balkin's (2014) model, recommendations for the Army's senior leader development process, and the potentially greater use of the Seidman's (2013) phenomenological interviewing method to capture data regarding the development of Army leaders through key role changes.

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