Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Education
Shirley A. Freed
Duane M. Covrig
Problem and Purpose
The U.S. Army has changed radically in the 68 years since World War II ended, from uniforms to vehicles, from weaponry to organizational changes. While still the Army, its workforce has changed greatly in gender, ethnic, and age composition. John Bruce, Jr. saw many of these changes during his 69-year career as both soldier and executive. How this leader responded to the changes in the U.S. Army over nearly seven decades was the problem I explored. The purpose of the study was to describe how 94-year-old John Bruce, senior executive at the U.S. Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command (TACOM-LCMC), responded to change in the U.S. Army environment during his career. This exploration revealed how Mr. Bruce continued to function for the entire length of his career through his leadership, loyalty, and learning, and showed how these qualities influenced his work, his associates, and his extraordinary length of service.
This was a single case study of one of the U.S. Army's longest-serving civilian leaders, Mr. John Bruce Jr. The methodology of this study design was five comprehensive interviews of peers of John Bruce, plus a similar interview of Mr. Bruce himself. The interviews were structured around questions designed to bring out the life, core beliefs, leadership style, and motivation of a man who served his nation for the length of time that would be considered the entire lifespan of another man. Interpreting John Bruce's evolving leadership vision, core beliefs, style, skills, adaptation to organizational and life changes, philosophy, and role within the organization, as well as his lifelong contributions and personal motivation through the revelations obtained in the interviews, were the particular challenges of this study.
Well into his 90s, John Bruce is a man of many talents, blessed with great health and a sharp mind. He came from a sound family background where he learned to love his family, his heritage, and his country. He was instilled with the principles of hard work, thrift, honesty, and integrity, all of which contributed to Mr. Bruce’s long, productive career. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and afterwards, became a civilian employee of the Army, and was able to successfully respond to the Army’s many changes by adapting to whatever the Army demanded of him. He made the transition from Accounting to Procurement, climbed the ladder of executive leadership, oversaw vast technological changes brought on by the computer and paperless contracting, and was a valued leader and role model to the changing workforce. He held deep loyalty to family, duty, the soldier, and his staff, and evolved with the Army as it became a 21st century organization. He oversaw the training and mentoring of his staff and kept himself motivated because of his strong desire to serve his country, and his drive for continual learning. He demanded the best of his workers as he demanded the same of himself, and proved throughout his career to be an exceptionally good steward of the public trust.
The life of John Bruce Jr. aligns with several theories as frameworks to interpret his life. He progressed through the many levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: After attaining the basic needs of food and shelter (Level 1), he secured safety by fitting into society (Level 2). He found love and fulfillment in his family (Level 3). He achieved esteem and responsibility through his career (Level 4). His great success in his career helped him to achieve self-actualization (Level 5) as he put his personal leadership style on the day-to-day workings of TACOM-LCMC. John Bruce’s life also aligns with elements of Erikson’s Eight Stage Theory of Human Development. He developed trust in family and teachers early in life (Stage 1), developed autonomy as a young child (Stage 2), and took initiative in learning at school (Stage 3). Success in school provided competence (Stage 4), and as he gained independence (Stage 5), he chose advanced education in college. He took initiative by joining the Army, and developed an identity as a soldier in the Army, and, after his military service, as a civilian executive of the Army. He chose the intimacy in married life (Stage 6). He gained great success in his career as an executive and came to guide the careers of the next generation of leaders (Stage 7). He stayed life-affirming well into his 90s (Stage 8). John Bruce's career also aligns with the Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory for job satisfaction, particularly through positive work experiences. He gained recognition as he advanced in his career, achieved many successes in program accomplishments, held a position of great responsibility, was promoted many times, attained an excellent salary, grew in competency along with his career promotions, and enjoyed his job, doing it well. John Bruce’s development aligns with Kotter’s 8-Step Process in Leading Change through his sense of urgency to accomplish the mission, developing a successful coalition of teammates and staff, developing a change vision that refined itself as he remained in his position, and communicating his vision to his staff and peers for buy-in. He brought about broad-based action in vehicle acquisition, achieved many short-term wins through incremental successes, never let up in his drive to succeed, and incorporated change into the culture. John Bruce’s development aligns with Scharmer’s U-Shaped Theory in that he achieved “presencing” through growth from a limiting institutional vision of leadership to a fuller connection with the world. Finally, John Bruce’s career training was in line with accepted literature: He was a highly motivated learner who held a variety of assignments, acquired on-the-job training and a broad, big-picture perspective; cultivated an expanding skill set; and accepted a position and assignments that involved change and continuing education. His was a high-profile job with associated high job stress; and he willingly accepted the responsibility that came with it.
Conclusions and Recommendations
John Bruce Jr.’s long and exemplary career may never be repeated but we can take away a strong lesson from his life. A willingness to respond to the changes that life will inevitably bring and to work hard at the varied tasks that life throws our way, a great devotion to family, country, and fellow man, and a strong motivation to learn and to be successful, offers a blueprint for success. We can gain new leaders with the qualities of Mr. Bruce, just as he directed or mentored many in his leadership style, if we continue to create a sense of honor and loyalty towards family, country, and duty, while promoting selflessness. This needs to be promoted throughout the United States. We should permit leaders to gain the training and experience they need to discover for themselves that great leaders will need to respond to change many times along the path of their careers in order for them to remain motivated to serve. We should promote healthy living that will permit our best leaders to serve longer, and celebrate older workers for their positive contributions and their knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Finally, I recommend similar studies be undertaken on especially long-serving executives.
Rakocy, Joseph, "John Bruce, Jr. : a Sixty-Nine Year Leadership Journey Throughout Change in the United States Army" (2014). Dissertations. 647.
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