Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Barrett E. Mincey


Bullying and toxic leadership in the U. S. Army disrupt bonding processes between leaders and subordinates, which may jeopardize military operations, threaten resiliency initiatives, inhibit leader development, and stifle innovation. Little research, however, has looked at the role of informal leaders who operate outside the formal power structure in military environments. Using social exchange theory as the foundation, the purpose of this case study was to explore the activities of informal leaders who mediated the normal and disrupted leadership bonding processes in an Illinois Army National Guard Infantry Brigade. The research questions explored the informal leaders' influence and behaviors to gain a greater understanding of the bonding processes. A maximum variation purposeful sampling was used to select 25 informal leaders from 8 company size units in an Illinois Army National Guard Infantry Brigade. Publicly available archival data were also considered. All data were coded inductively and then subjected to Braun and Clark's thematic analysis procedure, revealing the perception that informal leaders improved bonding between soldiers and leaders and reduced stress associated with military service. The implications for positive social change include recommendations to the Illinois National Guard to provide support for using informal leaders as a mechanism to promote more cohesive relationships between leaders and subordinates and to explore the use of informal leadership to reduce stress.