Loyal until death (?) : The nature, measurement and predictors of loyalty in a military context

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to broaden the understanding of the concept of loyalty within a military context, by focusing on how the nature of loyalty is experienced, how it can be measured and how it can be predicted. To achieve this, the thesis was structured in three interrelated studies, which initially aimed to examine the content of loyalty within the Swedish Armed Forces (SAF), then to develop and validate a scale to measure loyalty, and finally to examine possible predictors of loyalty.The aim of Study I was to examine how loyalty is experienced within the SAF. To achieve this, Study I examined how high-ranking officers – presumed to have a large influence on professional ethics within the SAF – gave meaning to their experiences of loyalty. The results showed that although the nature of loyalty in the military organization is based on a strong identification with the profession, loyalty is a multifaceted phenomenon which requires the individual to manage competing and sometimes counteracting domains (objects) of loyalty.The aim of Study II was to develop a psychometric scale for measuring loyalty in a military context, based on the findings of Study I. Given the complex and varying nature of loyalty and dealing with different domains of loyalty in the military, the scale was developed to consider several domains for an individual’s loyalty (e.g., workgroup, mission, nation). Additionally, there was a focus on the overall nature of loyalty involving sacrifice and action to protect the domain of loyalty. To achieve this, three independent samples, consisting of military personnel (in training and on overseas mission), were invited to answer a questionnaire based on the results from Study I. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses resulted in a scale measuring loyalty, denoted the Swedish Military Loyalty Scale (SMiLS). The SMiLS was found to consist of a four-dimensional representation of the willingness to act loyally. The dimensions are sectioned in loyal sacrifice and loyal action, further divided into moderate and extreme loyal sacrifice and loyal action, respectively.The aim of Study III was to examine how individuals’ willingness to act loyally to certain domains (the closest workgroup, the unit, and the unit mission) can be predicted by social identity fusion and developmental leadership. To achieve this, a sample consisting of military personnel serving on an overseas mission in Mali, took part in a survey, using the SMiLS as the dependent variable. Demographic factors, such as rank and gender, were also examined, taking the outcome of loyalty into consideration. The results show that social identity mainly predicted the sacrificial dimensions of loyalty, while developmental leadership predicted all dimensions of loyalty for all domains.In conclusion, the present thesis broadens the understanding of loyalty within a military context. It also contributes with a scale for measuring loyalty and identifies two predictors for loyalty. Further research should focus on a deepened understanding of loyalty within the military and in the context of total defense organizations, further validation of the SMiLS and the examination of additional possible predictors for loyalty.