Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Charles B. Daniels

Committee Member

Ariel Pinto

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

Ipek Bozkurt

Committee Member

Kaitlynn Castelle


The theoretical framework of this research is based on “skills approach” that emphasizes the leader’s capabilities (skills, knowledge, and capabilities) that can be learned, taught, and fostered. VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment is chosen as the focal point of this research as the leadership skills are extracted from studies referring to such environment. Although the acronym is dominantly used in management and business domains, the military also uses it to describe the complex operational environments like in Iraq and Afghanistan. The identification of individual leadership skills and delivering the right skill, at the right time, to the right individual is the only way to employ the “employee/leader we need” instead of “employee/leader we have.” It is harder than ever to specify with any degree of certainty which skills are required. It is also needed to have quality leaders, who need to qualify as both experts and generalists at the same time.

The primary purpose of the research is to identify, categorize the emerging leadership skills required in a VUCA environment, and also to examine how the military officers perceive the identified emerging skills in various security environments and organizational levels. To achieve this, the research employs the hybrid method. The qualitative part delivers a content analysis on the identification and the categorization of emerging leadership skills that feed into the survey instrument used in quantitative part to investigate the relationship between security environments and application of these emerging leadership skills as military officers perceive it. The fact that the primary data is collected from active and retired military officers from various nations, services, and ranks makes this research more noteworthy.

This research fills a gap by identifying and categorizing leadership skills that VUCA environment necessitates in broad and practically applicable perspective and also provides empirical evidence to show that military officers favor some leadership skills more than others in the different security environment and organizational level.

The findings will contribute to the leadership and organizational management domains by providing a broad and holistic perspective to improve our understanding of leadership skillsets in VUCA environment and by increasing the knowledge on skills and organizational-security context relationship. The results show that retired military officers think statistically significantly different than those on active duty. The results of this research also demonstrate a need to create a better understanding of the VUCA dynamics in military, and the findings can be used as the foundation for further research in the area of VUCA leadership skills.