Three Shades of Blue: Air Force Culture and Leadership

by Bernadette Pothan

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Humanities & Social Sciences
Year: 2014
Keywords: Leadership; Air Force; Culture
Record ID: 1042987
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/53817


The study explores unconstructive ideas of power in the military. In the thesis doctrine is seen to promote ideas of power over others under cover of the language of leadership. The study explains how Australian Defence Doctrine Publication 00.6: Leadership in the Australian Defence Force confuses ideas of command and leadership, and asserts that in doctrine unconstructive ideas of power have engulfed ideas of leadership. More than published text, doctrine is understood to describe ideas which have pervasive cultural meaning and impact. The thesis explores how acculturated myths of power are causally relevant to air accidents, decayed maintenance standards, and the prejudice borne by women in the Service. The so-called ‘warrior culture’ is interrogated as the rationalisation of unconstructive power and the aggregated risk which follows on its heels. The focus of the study is narrowed to the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and explicit attention is devoted to the ‘characters’ which give life to unhelpful elements of the ‘warrior culture’. The thesis unpacks the ‘characters’ (‘Aircrew’, ‘Maintenance Crew’, and ‘Support Crew’) and explores how unconstructive ideas of power are discernable in Air Force culture. ‘Aircrew’ are seen to infuse and dominate every aspect of Air Force life. ‘Maintenance Crew’ is a symbol for the Air Force maintenance culture, revealing the controlling influence and the practical repercussions of the ‘Aircrew’ myth. ‘Support Crew’ is more broadly indicative of the discriminatory themes which permeate and texture Air Force culture. The thesis reveals a propensity for a culture of resistance to reform, due to the persistence of deeply entrenched and profoundly unhelpful ideas of power. There is confusion surrounding the technicalities of leadership and command, ubiquitous when exploring doctrine. Practically, this sees unconstructive ideas of power masquerading as leadership. The study reveals that these unconstructive ideas of power perpetuate and promote the so-called ‘warrior culture’. Carefully selected case studies are used to illustrate key themes and concepts, and demonstrate the abstract ideas introduced in the thesis. The thesis interrogates the meaning and the repercussion of organisational myths and establishes the dangers associated with the unwitting perpetuation of cultural stereotypes.