Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chairperson; George E. Reed, PhD; Eric Potterat, PhD


SEAL; Cross-Cultural Competence; Decision Styles


U.S. military cross-cultural competence is currently deficient, as Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel assessments fail to explicitly consider aspects related to cross-cultural competence and lack processes specifically tailored to cross-cultural personnel assignments. Researchers, however, have identified eleven attributes that contribute to military cross-cultural competence; this study uses these attributes to explore whether decision styles and demographics correlate with cross-cultural competence. Building on existing work on the attributes of military cross-cultural competence (defined in this study as the ability to quickly and accurately assess, then effectively act, in a culturally complex environment to achieve mission results), I first examined the attribute profiles of experienced Navy Sea, Air, and Land Forces (SEALs) to distinguish between cross-cultural superior and substandard scorers. Logistic regression analysis was then used to estimate relationships between several demographic and decision-style factors and individual scores in cross-cultural competence. The analysis concluded with a comparison of attribute profiles of experienced and newly minted SEALs. Throughout the analyses, all statistical testing was done at the 5% level of significance or stronger.

Although 7.5% of the entire active SEAL community participated in the research (n = 253), the empirical results are suggestive but far from conclusive. For example, results revealed statistically significant correlations among the 11 factors associated with cross-cultural competence and decision-style factors (especially the need for cognition) and two demographic traits. Based on the attribute profiles of superior and substandard scorers, it appears SEALs have registered strong cross-cultural competence baselines. Furthermore, mean scores for the entire SEAL population in the study revealed a strong cognitive style attribute profile from a cross-cultural competence perspective. Additional analysis indicated newly minted SEALs, especially those with high scores in need for cognition, may be better positioned than the average experienced SEAL to perform well when engaging with foreign partners.

Although this is the first study that assesses a decision-style model for correlation with cross-cultural competence (and more research is needed), it suggests decision styles may be a useful tool for selection, assessment, and assignment of military personnel who deal extensively across cultures (e.g., Army Green Berets, Foreign Area Officers, and SOF Liaison Officers).

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.