ABSTRACT Military cultures tend to be perceived as hierarchal thus creating a climate where there may be a disconnect between the definition of leadership attributes by senior officers and soldiers on the ground. Data provided by 302 former special operations personnel was used to determine the degree of separation between how senior officers (strategic leaders), mid-grade officers (mid-level leaders) and junior officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and junior non-commissioned officers (functional leaders) define exemplary leaders. If the hierarchal hypothesis is correct, each level of the military hierarchy will perceive the attributes of an exemplary leader differently. The data indicates that senior officers, mid-grade officers, junior officers, senior non-commissioned officers, junior non-commissioned officers and covert government operatives spanning a period from World War II to the Afghanistan War all saw competence as the most significant behavior of an exemplary leader. The ranking of the remaining nineteen leadership attributes used in the study provides a worthwhile insight into how this unique population views exemplary leaders. This study may be of value to other governmental organizations designing teams to conduct high-risk ventures and private sector companies constructing teams to engage in high-risk economic projects.