Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

United States Coast Guard Transformational Leaders
Use of Positive Psychological Capacities

Audrey A. Hrinda
January 2007

This study examines positive psychological capacities that transformational leaders in the United States Coast Guard use to be effective. Although the military setting is often transactional in nature, research over the past two decades provides evidence of transformational leadership’s positive effect in a variety of organizations including the military. At the same time, the role a leader’s human resource strengths play in improving organizational performance and competitive advantage has been somewhat overlooked by both scholars and organizational leaders. This research, the first of its kind applied to the Coast Guard, discovered what distinct positive psychological capacities including courage, emotional intelligence, forgiveness, hope, optimism, resilience, self-efficacy, and spirituality, transformational leaders appeared to access and apply when they were being inspiring, intellectually stimulating, individually considerate, and motivating. The findings provide rich evidence regarding how these eight positive psychological capacities were applied in displays of attributes and behaviors associated with transformational leadership. This study found that all the capacities were apparent in all the leaders except for spirituality, which was evident in most leaders.  Emotional intelligence was the most prevalent capacity, and it appeared to be important in every aspect of transformational leadership. Hope, the second most prevailing capacity, always occurred along with emotional intelligence, optimism, and self-efficacy. A model for the hope process is proposed. Emotional intelligence, hope, optimism, and self-efficacy were the capacities most common in leadership displays. Courage, forgiveness, and resilience were less apparent and seemed to occur only when situations called for leaders to use them. Spirituality strongly influenced leadership attributes and behaviors and the other positive psychological capacities in those leaders who possessed it.