Leadership liminality: How catalytic experiences develop leaders

by Griess, Kevin L., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2014, 265 pages; 3643025

Abstract:

Most organizations consider leader development instrumental to their performance and success. Yet, despite extensive research efforts in both organizational and academic contexts, the dynamics of how individuals develop and grow as leaders remains incomplete. Through critical review of 100 years of research in leader development, experiential learning, adult learning and development, and individual change and the specific theories of John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget, David Kolb, Robert Kegan, and Jack Mezirow, this study constructs a 3-phase model of the leader developmental process. Defined as (a) beginning, (b) middle or liminal, (c) end phases, the beginning and end phases are well researched and understood. A gap in research exists for the liminal phase. This dissertation explores this gap through a qualitative, phenomenological study of the experiential leader development and change process that answers the research question, How do organizational leaders describe their experience of liminality following a catalytic event in their leadership development? In-depth interviews with 12 military and civilian organizational leaders within the Department of Defense obtained rich descriptions of their lived experiences of the cognitive state of liminality while they transitioned through the liminal phase of their leader development following a catalytic event in their lives. Using the phenomenological reduction method of data analysis, the findings revealed nine essential themes that described a complete experiential leader developmental change process. Each experience consisted of (a) a beginning state of mind, (b) a triggering event, (c) period of disorientation, (d) an affective tension components, (e) a physical component, (f) cognitive and behavioral responses to disorientation, (g) a transition to a reoriented state of mind, (h) realization and recognition of change or growth, and (i) a self-awareness of the learning process. This study contributes a greater understanding of the impact of affective tension on development, the existence of a negative physical component, and the expansion of the time horizon required for the process to be completed. This study suggests a need for further research to explore the role of affective tension, negative physical aspects, and individual awareness of growth and learning to the developmental process.

AdviserLaura Markos
SchoolCAPELLA UNIVERSITY
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Organization theory; Organizational behavior; Military studies
Publication Number3643025

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