Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chairperson; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD, Member; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Member; Paolo Tripodi, PhD, Member


Climate, Ethics, Leadership, Ethical Decision-Making, Ethics Education, Ethical Behavior


Marine Corps commanding officers today face challenges aggravated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, strategic uncertainty, and societal changes that carry over to the military such as women serving in infantry roles and the use of social media. These challenges are exacerbated by the stressors unique to the military such as lengthy separations from loved ones and multiple relocation moves, which underscore the significance of command climate and its influence on ethical behavior. Importantly, the consequences of a command climate not focused on ethics may negatively affect combat readiness and warfighting effectiveness. To date, however, little scholarly work, if any, has been done that examines the role that command climate plays in influencing the ethical behavior of Marines.

To begin to fill this void in the literature, this qualitative study employed a case study/cross-case design using a two-phased research approach. The first phase included a document analysis of the command climate curriculum taught at the Marine Corps’ formal schools, and personal interviews with four key individuals relative to the topic.

The second phase involved face-to-face interviews with eight Marine Corps commandants using a semi-structured interview guide designed to provide their perspectives on command climate and how it influences the ethical behavior of Marines. These data were examined using an analysis of the eight narratives, and the analysis produced four common categories: setting the example; open communications; core values; and accountability and responsibility. When these four common categories were then used during the cross-case comparison, the following three themes emerged: command climate is significant with respect to the ethical behavior of the Marines in the organization; climate must be focused on the routine maintenance of core values, and the character development of the individual Marine; and the ethical behavior of the individual Marine is the best way to continue to win the hearts and souls of the American people. This study hopes to modestly contribute to the Marine Corps’ leadership development program by providing recommendations to assist with the training and education of commanding officers who establish ethical climates designed to enhance combat effectiveness and character development within their organizations.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.