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From Flag Officer to Corporate Leader: A phenomenological study of the influence of career transition on executive leadership and professional identity Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationFrom Flag Officer to Corporate Leader: A phenomenological study of the influence of career transition on Executive leadership and professional identity This phenomenological study sought to understand the life experience of retired Flag/General Officers who transitioned from highly visible and accomplished careers in the US Military into executive leadership roles in other sectors. Participant selection was limited to those executive military leaders with a minimum of three years (for those currently employed) or five years (for those fully retired) of executive level leadership experience in the civilian sector and was focused on bringing clarity to the challenges they faced. Specifically, it explored how their leadership style and professional identity may have been influenced by the change in culture and mission and, most importantly, what they learned about themselves as a result of the lived experience. Twelve participants were purposefully selected across all branches of the US military and a semi-structured protocol was utilized in accordance with Barnard’s (1988) recommendation. Individual profiles were developed and interview data was analyzed using Moustakas’ (1994) phenomenological analysis method. Through phenomenological reduction, five themes and seventeen sub-themes emerged. The leadership transition experience of the participants was captured by crafting structural and textural descriptions, by integrating structural-textural descriptions, and by synthesizing the emergent meanings and essences of the phenomenon as a whole. This study offers the following five conclusions:1. The experience of career transition is expressed in terms of boundaryless opportunity and professional transformation 2. The ability to adapt to a new organizational culture is dependent upon ones openness to accept and embrace change3. Success is rooted in a commitment to ones core leadership principles and an intuitive willingness to flex ones leadership style as needed 4. Professional identities adjust in response to new environments, new networks of relationships, and new role expectations5. Professional transformation is a process of self-discovery and self-renewal The conclusions that emerged from the findings of this study illuminate the meaning and significance of the career transition experience of the twelve participants and contribute to the career transition literature.

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