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Army Research Institute awards UW Foster School of Business $700,000 to research leadership development of West Point graduates

The Army Research Institute has awarded a contract to the University of Washington Foster School of Business to examine leadership growth and development of the U.S. Military Academy’s 1998 graduating class.

The study will be led by Dr. Bruce J. Avolio, Marion B. Ingersoll professor of management and executive director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking.

The school will receive more than $700,000 over three years for the two-phase research project that builds on the Institute’s Baseline Officer Longitudinal Development Study (BOLDS), initiated at the U.S. Military Academy in 1994 when the cadets first arrived.

The first phase of the research involves building a comprehensive database using data collected from the class of 1998 to date, which includes numerous predictors such as early leadership and life experiences, leadership style as rated by others while attending the academy, as well as other performance variables. In the second phase, researchers will collect new data including assessments of leadership and performance in the participant’s current positions.

“Ultimately, we’ll focus on examining early experiences that predict the most ethical, authentic, adaptive and effective leaders and how they have grown as leaders over the past decade,” said Avolio.

Another goal of the project is to gather performance measures that provide insights on “extreme” performance, rather than “typical” or “average” performance. Relatively few leadership studies exist that have the advantage of collecting predictors and performance data over extended periods of time; thus, allowing researchers to differentiate leaders at the highest ends of performance domains, e.g., performing in extremely challenging contexts.

“A unique feature of BOLDS is that all participants started their careers at the same time, in the same institution and entered into the same ranked leadership position,” said Avolio. “There is no other longitudinal study in the field of leadership with such a controlled starting point for assessing leadership emergence, development and performance.”