Amy Fraher

(Former)

Amy Fraher

Biography

Amy Fraher is a retired U.S. Navy Commander and Naval Aviator, and former United Airlines pilot, with over 6,000 mishap-free flight hours in four jet airliners, five military aircraft, and several types of civilian airplanes. With over thirty years of leadership experience in high-risk fields, Fraher is a crisis management expert and widely published author who consults internationally to a broad range of organizations. Building on her previous career experience, Fraher's recent research interests center on critical crisis management and high reliability organizations, and she has conducted leadership and organizational research in the fields of aviation, medicine, military, and law enforcement operations. 

Research interests

In my research, I critically examine the ways that organizations—and people within them—prepare for and manage changing situations that could eventually result in crisis, disaster, or catastrophe. To accomplish this research, I typically conduct primary fieldwork in high-risk professions such as aviation, medicine, law enforcement and military operations.

My work differs from other leadership scholars in several ways. First, I consider leadership to be a process not an outcome. So for me, Leadership—good and bad—is a complex, multi-level co-creational process among leaders & followers in a particular context. Therefore the leadership process is constantly reinforced or broken down in the mundane day-to-day activities of everyday work life.

Second, much leadership research shows how bad, intentionally destructive leaders can have a detrimental impact on organizational performance through selfish, unethical, fraudulent and even illegal behaviors. Yet, less attention gets paid to the ways seemingly good, well intentioned leaders can nonetheless have a destructive impact. That’s because in academic studies, “Leadership” is often assumed to be positive, heroic, moral and good. Therefore most leadership scholars avoid the complex, dark-side of leadership behaviours—an area of study which I find fascinating.

Third, when scholars do study destructive or toxic leadership, it is often assumed that the leader involved in this scenario has bad intentions and their bad behaviours are always destructive. However, it’s more likely that leaders simultaneously display a combination of destructive and constructive behaviours and these behaviours may not always have a negative impact on people within their organization. Some behaviours may, in fact, be motivating to employees who produce positive outcomes as a result.

In sum, my current research area focuses on the ways that seemingly good well-intentioned people can nonetheless lead their organizations toward crisis in the mundane day-to-day of everyday work life. Conversely, I also like to examine the ways that fields of risky work avoid crisis by developing and sustaining mindfulness over long periods despite the complexity of their missions, unpredictability of their operating environments, and inherent danger of their work. By mindfulness, I mean the capacity to detect and correct errors and adapt to unexpected events before small factors develop into catastrophic failures. I call this field of study critical crisis management.

Education/Academic qualification

  • Doctor of Education, University of San Diego

    Leadership

Professional Qualifications

  • Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, ATP

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

PhD projects

I have supervised a broad range of graduate students, some of whom have gone on to become successful scholars and others who have pursued careers in a wide range of industry sectors. My research is largely qualitative and typically ethnographic. For example, I have conducted studies of airline pilots, US Navy SEALs, law enforcement officers, and surgical teams. My publications fall into two broad categories:

1) Critical crisis management studies examining organizational dysfunction and disaster; and

2) Critical empirical studies of work and workplaces.

I am particularly interested in supervising qualitative doctoral research in the following areas:
-All high-risk professions such as military, police, firefighting, aviation, etc.
-Leadership
-Teamwork
-Occupational identity
-Workplace studies focusing on stories, narratives and discourse analysis
-The darkside of organizational life
-Psychodynamics of workplace survival
-Sense-making and processes of organizing
-Downsizing, restructuring and the effects of ‘New Capitalism’ on employees