The Influence of Experience and Organizational Goals on Leadership in the Military Cockpit

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Despite the importance of leadership, little formalized leadership research has been conducted in the military cockpit. To explore how directive leadership is manifested in military helicopter cockpits, communications of 52 military pilots, flying a realistic simulator scenario in crews of 2, were analyzed. Based on information from general leadership research and theory, we focused the analyses on flight experience and organization goals. Pilots were assigned to 3 different groups, based on their experience level. Transcripts of communications from 3 portions of the flight were analyzed: from take-off to the first problem; from identification of the first problem to its solution and; from the discovery of the second problem to its solution. Analysis of variance showed there were no significant differences in commands given by the aircraft commanders in all 3 segments despite the experience level of the second pilot. There were significant differences in the commands given by the second pilot to the aircraft commander based on experience level and organizational goals. Although aircraft commanders were equally directive with their second pilots, no matter what their experience levels, during problem solving, they differed in their approach to the problems depending on the second pilot's experience. We discuss these findings and suggest application to both training and additional research.

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International Journal of Aviation Psychology, v. 20, issue 4, p. 375-389