This empirical phenomenological study addresses two questions: (a) does a specific leader development phenomenon—the leader liminal sphere—exist? In addition, if it exists, (b) what are its characteristics?
Leadership theory does not refer to this phenomenon. However this study applies Gennep's (1960) findings on changes in individuals' social positions and Turner's (1995) concept of transitional spheres to the condition between being and not being a leader, a condition in which an individual, in Turner's words is “betwixt and between” (1995, p. 95) two states.
The study gathered qualitative data in the U.S. through individual face-to-face interviews with 6 adult female and 6 adult male volunteers with racial, age and professional differences. These participants described perceptions, experiences and the meaning to them of a valuable time when they developed leadership skills and behavior. Van Kaam's method of phenomenological data analysis, as modified by Moustakas (1994), led to the discovery that participants' descriptions exhibit a high degree of thematic consistency: every participant alluded to 4 specific themes associated with this valuable time.
These themes are: (a) consequential judgment (observing and judging senior leaders), (b) deep feelings (experiencing powerful emotions associated with their judgments), (c) personal breakout (emerging from the status quo through personal initiative), and (d) social engagement (building social capital by being with people). In addition, nearly all participants describe early experiences in which they displayed leadership skills suggesting to them that they always possessed the capacity to lead.
This study provides insight into the existence of a potential source of leadership, specifically individuals caught in the leader liminal sphere. The study also adds nuance and depth to what is known about leadership and human development and suggests new research opportunities.
|Commitee:||Nero, Susan, Rhodes, Kent|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 69/06, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Management, Occupational psychology, Organizational behavior|
|Keywords:||Leader development, Liminal sphere, Liminality|
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