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Insights from the Marine Corps Organizational Culture Research Project: Empathy in Leaders



military, organizational culture, empathy, gender bias, leadership


This document was an applied “quick look” report from the Marine Corps Organizational Culture Research (MCOCR) Project. The MCOCR project was conducted between 2017 and 2020 by the Translational Research Group, a multidisciplinary social science research team at Marine Corps University. The project involved interviews and focus groups with 267 active duty U.S. Marines regarding various aspects of culture, but with an emphasis on gender bias, leadership, and cohesion. The project also was informed by the researchers’ enduring presence within a Marine Corps organization and daily interactions with Marines, which assisted them in interpreting research participants’ comments. This particular report focused perspectives related to empathy. Through the voices of Marines, the report addresses the importance they place on empathy as a leadership skill and tool, the tension between empathy, which is perceived by some as a gendered “soft” skill, and institutional narratives about strength and toughness, and the role of empathy in effective leveraging/management of diversity in the institution.


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