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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The inspirational leadership of social entrepreneur and philanthropist Malcolm Harris
by Gotchall, Denise A., Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2010, 165; 3439695
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to examine how inspirational leadership contributes to social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in ways that can be followed by other leaders, through understanding how one leader describes his personal epiphany, changes, and decisions. This study was an examination of the inspirational leadership of fashion designer Malcolm Harris, his role as a social entrepreneur and philanthropist, and his contributions to a more beneficent society. Harris is the co-founder of “Designers for Darfur” and the founder of “One Dress.”

Data were collected through interviewing Harris using appreciative inquiry, and open-ended questions were posed to 8 participants—peers, professional colleagues, and friends. The interviews took place over a 3-month-period. Findings, conclusions, and recommendations for further research were shared with all participants.

Findings from Harris’s interview based on the four phases of appreciative inquiry (discovery, dream, design, destiny) uncovered such themes as epiphany, mentoring, power of the fashion industry, brands with awareness, conquering fears, and the solitary journey towards leadership. Participants’ narratives confirmed traits associated with inspirational leadership as determined by Hay Group including: leads by example, stimulates enthusiasm, inspires others, and communicates a compelling vision. Unanticipated themes included social awareness, ethics and trust from others, sense of self and grounded, challenges and resilience, uniqueness, and spiritual. Similarities and differences related to the literature and compared to other social entrepreneurs and philanthropists led to an enhanced understanding of the role of inspirational leadership and the construct of “leader lead thyself.”

Findings from this study could be enhanced through longitudinal studies that would add insight into the possibility of improvement, stability, or learning of new traits for individual leaders over time and integrate these findings into the curriculum of schools of fashion and design, business schools, and leadership programs. Multiple case studies would add to a better understanding of leadership traits found in various professions and compare those to fashion designers. As the concept of soul gains credibility in organizations, the implications of a spiritual practice for inspirational business leaders could further be investigated.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Adams, John
Commitee: Jaffe, Dennis, Walton, Doug
School: Saybrook University
Department: Organizational Systems
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Biographies, Entrepreneurship, Business education, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Entrepreneur, Fashion, Harris, Malcolm, Leadership, Philanthropist, Social entrepreneurship, Solitary, Spiritual
Publication Number: 3439695
ISBN: 978-1-124-45120-6
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