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Jonathan SchrodenElizabeth S. LeeHeather M.K. WoltersAnya FinkAlexander PowellLia Janzer
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In this CNA-initiated study, we sought to examine the potential implications of cross- generational leadership issues for the future of special operations forces (SOF). Specifically, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • What are the predominant traits associated with SOF leadership today?
  • What are the most relevant traits of leadership for today’s younger generations?
  • What are the traits of leadership required by the future security environment?
  • How do these traits compare, and what are the implications for the future of SOF leadership?

To answer these questions, we conducted semi-structured discussions with 29 current and past senior SOF leaders, reviewed rigorous empirical and theoretical research, and examined popular narratives and informed opinions about the characteristics, traits, and attitudes of today’s younger generations, as well as the requirements of military leadership on the future battlefield. We examined these sources in the context of the “paradoxical trinity of leadership”, which connects leadership traits across leaders, followers, and context.

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Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.


  • Pages: 86
  • Document Number: DRM-2022-U-033112-Final
  • Publication Date: 8/11/2022
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