Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary Woods Scherr, PhD, Director; Fred J. Galloway, EdD; Daniel Miller, PhD


Active duty, Leadership studies, leadership theory, Navy Command Leadership School, performance evaluation, Post-Vietnam War, qualitative, quantitative, United States Navy, veterans, women


Since the Vietnam War, Navy leadership theory and practice has changed, becoming more like current civilian leadership theory and practice than traditional leadership of old. Indicators of this change have been seen in journal writings, the new Navy performance evaluation structure, current Navy leadership training, and by the birth of a Navy Command Leadership School. This study was designed to explore the evolution and recent history of the Navy's leadership theory and practice for indications of change. Combining a qualitative and quantitative methodology, this study used a 5-point Likert-type scale survey that included a written comments section. Over 70% of 561 participants responded to the survey's open-ended questions, adding explanatory power to the quantitative data. The findings in this study show that Tailhook was viewed as a major event associated with the changes in Navy leadership since the Vietnam War. Of the two participant groups surveyed, Vietnam-era and post-Vietnam Navy officers and senior enlisted veterans, Vietnam-era aviators felt the strongest in this belief. Vietnam-era veterans believed that the change had not been for the good of the Navy, whereas active duty personnel were much more favorable in their assessment about changes in leadership. Women showed significantly greater agreement that change in Navy leadership theory and practice during their time on active duty was for the good of the Navy, and whites expressed a more favorable attitude to the direction Navy leadership was taking than non-whites. Other contributors to change in Navy leadership since Vietnam were the post-Cold War force drawdown and technological advancements of the 1990s. Changes in Navy leadership were perceived differently depending on participants' race, gender, or rank—usually only varying in degree of agreement or disagreement with certain aspects of Navy leadership. What started as a gradual change in Navy leadership theory and practice accelerated after the 1991 Tailhook Convention scandal. Tailhook was a watershed event that sent shock waves throughout the Navy hierarchy. The event and its aftermath forced the Navy to change how it viewed the role of women in combat. To some, Tailhook represented a quintessential breakdown in Navy leadership.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access