Effects of Leadership on Safety Culture within the U.S. Air Force Nuclear Enterprise: A Qualitative Case Study

Effects of Leadership on Safety Culture within the U.S. Air Force Nuclear Enterprise: A Qualitative Case Study

Author: 
Teresa D. Tygart
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
The effects of leadership on safety culture have not received enough recognition in scholarly literature. Research on leadership is abundant compared to research on leadership’s influence on safety culture. The design of the current qualitative case study was to explore the effects of leadership on safety culture within the U.S. Air Force nuclear enterprise. Twenty-three participations who worked in the U.S. Air Force nuclear community participated. Maintaining and improving safety was a leadership issue due to the command and control nature of the military. The specific problem was that despite training and written policies and regulations, safety errors still occurred. Organizational influences, including leadership, have not paid enough attention to aircrew maintenance, maintainers, and safety personnel, which could have contributed to several accidents or errors. For a leader to be effective, followers must value their authority and accept their leadership, irrespective of career field. For any organization to be successful, accountability is the key. Data was verified by the participants minimizing errors. Interviews, observations, questionnaires, and relevant documents to support the triangulation process were evaluated, along with themes that emerged from the NVivo software. The themes that emerged from the interviews revealed that participants defined leadership involvement in safety culture in different ways. Themes that surfaced as important elements included daily leadership involvement, responding situationally with subordinates, significant training, vision or communication, and safety mechanisms. Senior leadership within the U.S. Air Force has charged the nuclear community with carrying out their mission without incident.
Dedication: 
This dissertation is dedicated to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for making this journey possible and attainable. I dedicate this dissertation to my mom and dad posthumously, who always believed that I could do anything I set my mind to do. I also dedicate it to my best friend, Sheryl, who has supported me and encouraged me through the process. Her encouragement has been invaluable. Finally, I dedicate this dissertation to my family, friends, and colleagues, who are too numerous to mention but who have prayed, loved, and supported me through this journey. May God bless you all richly!
Acknowledgements: 
I want to express my sincere gratitude and thankfulness to God for the strength to persevere and overcome many, many obstacles. To my family, friends, and colleagues who encouraged me, reviewed papers, and constantly kept up with my progress, what a journey. I want to acknowledge my good friends Dr. Penelope Christopher and Dr. Carol Manuel-Tignor, who have taken this journey with me and supported me through it all. I would also like to acknowledge my best friend, Sheryl Bagwell, for her many prayers, her encouragement, and her support through this journey; she kept me grounded and focused. I wanted to acknowledge and thank my many instructors along the way; without them, I would not have made it. I would like to thank Dr. Donald Bronsard, my first-year residency instructor and committee member, for his faith in me and his unique words of wisdom. He died in 2014 and never got to see me through to the finish line; he will never be forgotten. I would like to acknowledge my chair, Dr. Martha Taylor, who picked up the torch at a most needed time and encouraged me through to the finish line. To my committee member Dr. Jamiel Vadell, thank you for your nuclear expertise and your technical support. Also, to my committee member Dr. Guy E. White, thank you for your candor and for pushing me to be better. I am so blessed to have friends and colleagues such as these. I certainly didn’t get here by myself, and I’m humbled that I have made it here at all. With God, all things are possible!