Cover: Malleability and Measurement of Army Leader Attributes

Malleability and Measurement of Army Leader Attributes

Personnel Development in the U.S. Army

Published Apr 12, 2018

by Susan G. Straus, Tracy C. Krueger, Geoffrey E. Grimm, Kate Giglio


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Research Questions

  1. To what degree can constructs associated with Army leadership attributes be taught or developed through work experiences?
  2. How can constructs associated with Army leadership attributes be measured?
  3. How can these measures be used to support the Army's leader development and training efforts?

Army leaders face a myriad of challenges that demand a wide range of knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics. Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-22, Army Leadership, delineates the attributes and competencies that leaders should possess in the Army Leader Requirements Model (ALRM). This study supports the Army's leadership development and training efforts by examining psychological constructs associated with intellect, presence, and character attributes specified in the ALRM.

One objective of this report is to review research evidence for the extent to which key constructs can be developed through training and education. Findings indicate that some constructs, such as physical fitness, creative thinking skills, and resilience, are amenable to change through training and education, whereas others, such as general mental ability, are more stable. Other constructs, such as generalized self-efficacy and expertise, may be amenable to change, but development requires substantial time and effort.

A second objective of the report is to identify established measures of constructs associated with ALRM attributes. For most constructs, there are numerous measures available, consisting largely of tests and surveys. Conclusions in the report address considerations for selection of measures, designs for studying training and education interventions, and recommendations for routine data collection for use in job placement and ongoing study efforts. Findings from this review are relevant not only to leadership and to the Army but to development and assessment of personnel in a wide range of positions and organizations.

Key Findings

Constructs vary in terms of malleability through training and education

  • Some constructs are relatively stable: these include fluid intelligence (e.g., abilities related to processing information and abstract reasoning), affiliative aspects of extraversion, and dispositional aspects of creativity.
  • Other constructs, including generalized self-efficacy, crystallized intelligence (e.g., depth of vocabulary), critical-thinking skills, creative problem-solving, expertise, and resilience, may be amenable to change, but development requires substantial time and effort.
  • Of the constructs reviewed, physical fitness, which is an aspect of leader presence, is the most amenable to change.
  • Other constructs associated with leader attributes may be malleable through work experiences or organizational practices such as specifying clear job roles; these constructs include conscientiousness, social dominance aspects of extraversion, and affective commitment to the organization.
  • Still other constructs are associated with leader attributes, but there is insufficient research evidence regarding their malleability. These include dispositional aspects of critical thinking, metacognition, emotional intelligence, ethical decision making, initiative, and motivation to lead.

There are many measures of constructs associated with Army leader attributes

  • Common approaches to measurement include multiple-choice tests, essay tests, situational judgment tests, work sample tests, self-report surveys, and interviews.
  • Measures vary in factors such as the types of attributes assessed, type of information provided (objective or subjective), reliability, validity, scalability, and costs of development, administration, and scoring.


  • Assess return on investment of training and education programs.
  • Let the content of training and education programs and relevant theory guide selection of measures.
  • Consider reliability, validity, scalability, and cost-effectiveness when selecting measures.
  • Collect baseline measures of ALRM constructs from officers to be used for job placement as well as for ongoing study efforts.
  • Provide greater clarity about ALRM attributes, particularly warrior ethos, service ethos, and military and professional bearing.
  • Consider inclusion of additional attributes, such as adaptability and systems thinking, in future iterations of the ALRM.
  • In Army leader education, address the malleability of ALRM attributes, and for attributes that can be changed, provide strategies to help leaders develop these attributes in others.

Research conducted by

The research documented in this report was sponsored by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Combined Arms Center, and was conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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