Neutralizing Army Leadership with Transformational Leadership

Neutralizing Army Leadership with Transformational Leadership

Increasing the number of female leaders in the military is emerging as a continuous organizational trend (Baldwin, 1996).  The Army organization is tremendously different from the one established in 1775.  This drastic change is largely due to the redesign of the Army’s personnel selection and appointing process (Roulo, 2013).  According to Major General Maria Anderson, in 2013 women made up about 15.7 percent of the U.S. Army (a figure that has remained constant 2002).  Additionally, only about 16 percent of the officer corps and just seven percent of top generals and admirals across the armed forces are female, according to a 2013 report of personnel.  Prior to 2011, approximately 33,000 positions or units were previously closed off to women (Lopez, 2014).  While the gender-gap continues to close with the restrictions lifted on positions women may fill, the overall culture of the organization and its training procedures may still cater to the male soldier.  Transformational leadership is about renovating an organization to cater to all members.  Through adopting transformational leadership, the Army organization may find a way to create a more inclusive culture, which is gender-neutral.

Transformational leadership is substantially interactive and inclusive.  Every leader should have the tools to reach a high degree of interconnectedness from which they are able to achieve the desired outcomes. Transformational leadership is needed in the Army because it can help to nurture the qualities of females and help the organization create some of the best leaders.  The Army needs to show a true concern and respect for female leaders so that these individuals may proper contribute to building an organizational culture of collaboration.  This new culture will have a basis on the Army Values with an emphasis on integrity and fairness.  Adapting a transformational leadership style of culture will help the organization continuously invest in the culture of gender-equality and, through gender-neutral leadership training, help female leaders create more confidence in self for higher achievement and self-actualization.

The contemporary Army follows a new vision, which should lead to the evolution of the organization’s culture.   The Army must see women as being worthy of a training re-design having more gender-neutral leadership training.  Both empirical and non-empirical literatures express a broad and varied interpretation of the organizations glass ceiling effect for Females, and mainly conclude the same: Woman can move up in position but the organization will not give her the opportunity or training to exceed expectation in her job. 

One example of the challenges females face in military leadership is not being perceived as competent leaders.   In an important study, Biernat, Crandall, Young, Kobrynowicz, and Halpin (1998) examined the judgments of U.S. Army captains attending a leadership training course.  This study revealed a bias favoring men in by both male and female members.  Even those females who have been in command and other leadership positions did not receive more favorable results than males.  According to Biernat et al. (1998), the participants perceived men as the more competent leaders and answered they would have more influence.  However, despite requiring more evidence of success for women than men to achieve higher scores, people generally set lower standards for women when accomplishing a task (Ely & Myerson, 2000).  The problem females is other have a lower perception of abilities and higher standards for competence.  In the Army (group or organization setting), a woman must be perceived as equally able as men.  Therefore, women are at a disadvantage by the double standard.

Additionally, Baldwin (1996) stressed the military is not rushing to change the culture or strategy for promotions or training because although diversity is expanding, female leaders had yet to have a great enough value to implement change.  Female members of the Army must be trained the same as males to thrive in an environment characterized by uncertainty and unpredictability as a result of constant global, political and economic changes.   The organization then has a need to adjust to the dynamics with conflicts arising, which demand constant adaptation of its leaders (Ely & Myerson, 2000).  As such, the Army necessitates effective leadership to guide soldiers through new challenges likely to become more difficult as the conflicts.  Leaders will need training, which allow the acceptance of their organizational cultures in order to affect the necessary changes.

To conclude, top female leaders in the Army, such as Lieutenant General Patricia D. Horoho, who is the first female U.S. Army Surgeon General, or Major General Marcia Anderson, who is the U.S. Army's first African American female two-star general, believes that a change in culture is necessary to have the most efficient outcomes with female leaders (Lopez, 2014).  While the Army seems vastly interested in promoting women into top leadership positions the organization has yet to alter leadership training so the training no longer has an interest in the male profile (Winn, 2013).  The problem is that although there is a lack of gender-neutral training, female leaders are expected to produce the same outcomes as male leaders.  The lack of gender-neutral training may create a disadvantage for women, as leadership training tactics do not align with female profiles and characteristics (Ely & Rhode, 2008).  Without more female leadership the Army’s culture will remain the same, one which is male-dominate and disadvantageous for female leaders.

Are Female leaders at a disadvantage in the U.S. Army?



Baldwin, J. N. (1996). Female promotion in male-dominant organizations: The case of the United States military. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from

Biernat, M., Crandall, C., Young, L. V., Kobrynowicz, D., & Halpin, S. M. (1998). All that you can be: Stereotyping of self and others in a military context.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75(2):301-17 Retrieved from:

Ely, R., & Meyerson, D. (2000). Theories of gender: A new approach to organizational analysis and change. In B. Staw & R. Sutton (Eds.), Research in Organizational Behavior, 22: 105-153.

Ely, R. J., & Rhode, D. L., (2008). Women and leadership: Defining the challenges. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice. 14 Harvard Business Press. Retrieved from:

Lopez, C.T., (2014). Women leaders serve as role models, whether they realize it or not. Retrieved from

Roulo, C., (2013). Defense department expands women's combat role. Retrieved from

Winn, P., (2013). Gen. Dempsey: If women can’t meet military standard, Pentagon will ask ‘does it really have to be that high?’. Retrieved from


Christopher Hicks's picture Christopher Hicks | May 4, 2017 12:41 pm MST

Great points Shequetta!

To answer your question, I think it is obvious that female leaders have had to overcome many obstacles in the U.S. Army. I wonder if the female leaders who have been the exception identify as transformational leaders. I think one of the most vital aspects of transformational leadership is the vision. Leaders who exemplify the transformational style are vision-oriented. They lead by inspiring others. Most importantly, they are the type of leaders that can create a vision and recruit individuals to carry out the vision. Perhaps, it is time the Army adopt a vision that seeks to maximize the potential of its female force.  

Shequetta Green's picture Shequetta Green | May 11, 2017 8:27 pm MST

Thank you for your response Chris!  You said "I wonder if the female leaders who have been the exception identify as transformational leaders."  To answer your question, I think these ladies had to be transformational leaders because they needed to change the game.  In speaking with some of themm, I notice their opinions were that they had to get the support of male leaders to even be looked at as a leader.  Getting support from female leaders creates a conflict of interest in most cases.  So females need support from male counterparts that they may or may not give.  It is a catch 22 really.  This all goes back the glas ceiling affect for women.  Tell them they can go far but, do not give hem the tools to do so.

Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | May 27, 2017 6:20 am MST

Hi Shequetta,  I enjoyed reading your post.  I've chaired two military-minority related dissertations recently.  You might want to look in our library for the dissertations of Hannah Francis and Odell Graves.

You observed:  "Getting support from female leaders creates a conflict of interest in most cases."

This doesn't indicate the problem is that there aren't female leaders available to help.  Thus, I wondered whether you were referring to the queen bee syndrome that women who are successful want to be the lone successful woman (I hope that is becoming history) or whether there are cultural reasons.  For example, Dr. Graves found black senior officers felt there were cultural pressures that kept other black officers from mentoring them.  What conflict of interests did your participants perceive?

I hope you'll consider joining the Women and Leadership SIG here!  You can be a member of any research center and still join SIGs!  

Graves, O. A. (2016).  Phenomenological Study Exploring Mentoring Received by Black Army Officers to Receive Promotions.  Retrieved from