Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Co-Chair Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Co-Chair Afsaneh Nahavandi, PhD, Member James M. Dobbs, PhD, Member


character, commitment, development, leadership, United States Air Force Academy


Character and leadership are the essence of the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). USAFA’s mission is to develop leaders of character responsible for defending this nation. Our country has the most lethal Air Force this world has ever known. The men and women entrusted with protecting its citizens must be committed to the highest standards of ethical leadership. To accomplish this, USAFA provides a robust education and training program with extensive opportunities for cadet development. However, achieving USAFA’s vision of creating the nation’s best leaders of character relies upon cadet trust in the process and commitment to their development into leaders with high character. Although commitment is an instrumental measure for understanding human behavior and a central component of learning organizations, it has never been studied at USAFA.

To fill this gap, this study used an explanatory-sequential design by first employing a survey to quantitatively measure how committed cadets are to their development as leaders of character and to USAFA as an organization and then to determine which factors are associated with commitment variation. The second phase of the study used semistructured interviews to understand commitment antecedents more comprehensively, as well as how and why these variables are related to commitment.

Although commitment research, generally, has focused on outcomes (e.g., performance, job satisfaction, and turnover reduction), understanding the factors that explain variation in commitment-related outcomes is vital to improving organizational effectiveness. The range of cadet commitment to the mission and organization was significant with commitment antecedents at the personal, interpersonal and organizational levels. Expected findings included the prominence of person-fit characteristics, the importance of leadership, and the influence of organizational subcultures (e.g., squadrons, teams). Key findings included the interrelationship between goals, identity, motivation, and priorities and their impact on commitment; the power of social influence (e.g., cynicism); and how organizational factors (e.g., communication, empowerment, trust, and workload) impact cadet commitment. Emergent findings included the power of perspectives; the decrease in cadet commitment to USAFA over time; the higher level of organizational commitment of female cadets compared to their male counterparts; and an awareness of how COVID-19 can affect commitment.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies