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Envisioning leadership for a new millennium: A phenomenological study of the experiences and perspectives of emerging organizational and community leaders

Dissertation
Author: Lawrence A. Roybal
Abstract:
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the behaviors, experiences, perspectives, and values of emerging millennial leaders. The research explored how these emerging leaders defined and enacted their leadership styles, how they had been influenced by their life experiences and the actions of others, how they had been affected by various learning opportunities, and how their participation in a collegiate leadership development program had fostered their leadership. The research was comprised of six case studies of emerging organizational and community leaders. Interviews, journals, leadership creeds, and a focus group were used to collect the data. Twelve themes emerged from an analysis of the data: embracing differences, cultivating relationships, fostering collaboration, overcoming adversity, pursuing dreams, becoming pillars of inspiration, acquiring knowledge, engaging in reflection, striving for growth, pursuing civic engagement, building capacity, and envisioning millennial contributions. These emerging millennial leaders demonstrated ambidexterity, creativity, inclusivity, interactions with state-of-the art technology, teamwork, and a commitment to social justice. The participants had clear views about the interactive effects of leadership and learning. Implications for community and organizational leadership, learning, and development are that collaborative and shared approaches may prove to be the most effective. This research addresses a gap in the literature on leadership, which mostly has focused on established leaders from preceding generations rather than upon emerging leaders from the millennial generation.

xii TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF FIGURES ..................................................................................................... xviii LIST OF TABLES ......................................................................................................... xix

Chapter I: Introduction .....................................................................................................1 Preface ............................................................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem ...............................................................................................3 Purpose of the Study ......................................................................................................4 Research Questions ........................................................................................................5 Assumptions ...................................................................................................................6 Conceptual and Theoretical Framework ........................................................................6 Key Terms, Research Methods, and Means of Analysis ................................................7 Limitations of the Study .................................................................................................9 Significance of the Study .............................................................................................11 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................11 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW .....................................................................13

Preface ..........................................................................................................................13 Transformational Leadership .......................................................................................13 Self-Reflection and Empowerment .....................................................................14 Building Trust and Teamwork ............................................................................16 Transformational Learning...........................................................................................17 Inquiry and Discovery .........................................................................................18 Connectivity and Group Dynamics .....................................................................19 Organizational Learning...............................................................................................21

xiii Authenticity and Shared Vision ..........................................................................22 Strategic Planning and Team Building ...............................................................23 Partnerships and Constructive Change ...............................................................25 Science and Technology .....................................................................................28 Communication and Global Networks ...............................................................30 Knowledge Management and Organizational Structures ....................................33 Community Building....................................................................................................36 Community Development and Capacity Building ..............................................37 Generations ..................................................................................................................39 The Silent Generation .........................................................................................40 Baby Boomers .....................................................................................................40 Generation X .......................................................................................................41 Generation Y/Millennial Generation ..................................................................41 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................43 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY ...............................................................................44

Introduction ..................................................................................................................44 Description of the Participants .....................................................................................44 Design of the Study ......................................................................................................45 Methods and Procedures ..............................................................................................46 Protection of Human Subjects .....................................................................................49 Risks and Benefits ..............................................................................................49 Potential Risks and Discomforts .........................................................................50 Potential Benefits to Participants and to Society ................................................51 Informed Consent................................................................................................51 Participation and Withdrawal .............................................................................52

xiv Confidentiality ....................................................................................................52 Validity and Reliability ................................................................................................53 Data Analysis ...............................................................................................................56 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................57 CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS .............................................................................................59

Preface ..........................................................................................................................59 Overview of Emerging Leaders ...................................................................................59 The Butterfly .......................................................................................................59 The Cheerleader ..................................................................................................61 The Diplomat ......................................................................................................64 The Guardian Angel ............................................................................................67 The Matriarch .....................................................................................................69 The Swan ............................................................................................................72 Research Questions ......................................................................................................74 Data Analysis ...............................................................................................................74 Themes .........................................................................................................................77 Primary Research Question .................................................................................77 Theme 1: Embracing Differences .................................................................77 Theme 2: Cultivating Relationships .............................................................83 Theme 3: Fostering Collaboration ................................................................89 Secondary Research Questions ...........................................................................96 Theme 4: Overcoming Adversity ..................................................................97 Theme 5: Pursuing Dreams .........................................................................104 Theme 6: Becoming Pillars of Inspiration ..................................................107 Theme 7: Acquiring Knowledge .................................................................114

xv Theme 8: Engaging in Reflection ...............................................................119 Theme 9: Striving for Growth ....................................................................122 Theme 10: Pursuing Civic Engagement .....................................................134 Theme 11: Building Capacity .....................................................................146 Theme 12: Envisioning Millennial Contributions ......................................160 Conclusion ........................................................................................................171 CHAPTER V: SUMMARY, DISCUSSION, AND IMPLICATIONS ......................173

Research Questions and Purpose of Chapter .............................................................173 Research Participants .................................................................................................174 The Butterfly .....................................................................................................175 The Cheerleader ................................................................................................175 The Diplomat ....................................................................................................176 The Guardian Angel ..........................................................................................176 The Matriarch ...................................................................................................176 The Swan ..........................................................................................................176 Summary of Findings .................................................................................................177 Embracing Differences .....................................................................................177 Cultivating Relationships ..................................................................................177 Fostering Collaboration ....................................................................................177 Overcoming Adversity ......................................................................................178 Pursuing Dreams ...............................................................................................178 Becoming Pillars of Inspiration ........................................................................178 Acquiring Knowledge .......................................................................................179 Engaging in Reflection .....................................................................................179 Striving for Growth ...........................................................................................180

xvi Pursuing Civic Engagement ..............................................................................180 Building Capacity .............................................................................................181 Envisioning Millennial Contributions ..............................................................181 Discussion ..................................................................................................................182 Transforming Organizations and Communities ................................................182 Constructive Change and Networking ..............................................................183 Authenticity and Strength .................................................................................184 Diversity and Discovery ....................................................................................185 Creativity and Visioning ...................................................................................186 Connectivity and Technology ...........................................................................187 Social Constructionism and Paradigm Shifts....................................................190 Community Building and Social Justice ...........................................................192 Empowerment and Teamwork ..........................................................................193 Ambidexterity and Dynamic Environments .....................................................195 Implications and Recommendations ..........................................................................197 Future Research..........................................................................................................200 Conclusion .................................................................................................................203 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................207 APPENDICES .................................................................................................................212 APPENDIX A: Interview Questions ................................................................................212 APPENDIX B: Journal Questions ...................................................................................213 APPENDIX C: Leadership Creed Questions ...................................................................214 APPENDIX D: Focus Group Questions ..........................................................................215

xvii APPENDIX E: Research Protocol ...................................................................................216 APPENDIX F: Butterfly Leadership Creed .....................................................................217 APPENDIX G: Cheerleader Leadership Creed ...............................................................218 APPENDIX H: Diplomat Leadership Creed ....................................................................219 APPENDIX I: Guardian Angel Leadership Creed ...........................................................220 APPENDIX J: Matriarch Leadership Creed ....................................................................221 APPENDIX K: Swan Leadership Creed ..........................................................................222 APPENDIX L: Consent to Participate in Research .........................................................223

xviii LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 5.1: Envisioning Leadership for a New Millennium: Making the World a Better Place ......................................................................................................................197

xix LIST OF TABLES

Table 4.1: The 12 Themes that Emerged from an Analysis of the Data ............................76

1

Chapter I: Introduction Preface We constantly learn and change as members of organizations and communities. Leaders can expect to encounter challenges and uncertainties in these complex environments. Leaders should realize the significance of overcoming barriers that can hinder development as well as the capacity to fulfill aspirations. It is important to judge possibilities through the lenses of others to promote continued growth as leaders and the advancement of organizations and communities. Senge (1999) highlighted the need to deal with pressing issues with respect for varying perspectives to foster understanding, cooperation, and commitment to achieving a shared vision. Emerging leaders define and enact leadership styles that may differ from the traditional leadership styles that have sometimes flourished or often floundered in various organizational and community settings. This study focused on the emergence of a new generation of leaders, particularly on the emergence of millennial leaders and the life experiences and learning opportunities that have transformed them and affected their leadership styles. Change is inevitable. Some people fear it, while others embrace it. Leaders must confront it and harness its potential. Exceptional leaders embrace the power of transformation strategically to realize a vision of what their organizations and their communities could become. Life experiences, values, and views of the world shape views of leadership. Leaders must anticipate obstacles and persevere to realize dreams. These transformative experiences affect perceptions of self and purpose. Leaders must

2 make sacrifices, while cultivating engagement and cooperation. Collaboration and knowledge can strengthen the courage to deal with critical issues, drawing on them to overcome apathy, complacency, and pessimism. Change sometimes allows for a positive leadership environment to emerge and flourish, drawing on collaboration and community partnerships to foster greater results. Given the increasing diversity within contemporary society, producing a harmonious environment within organizations requires greater understanding of diverse perspectives that embrace other ways to promote equity and fairness. In striving to establish organizational leadership and achievement, emerging leaders can look to the transformational leaders of the past for inspiration. Leadership and learning are intertwined, often in subtle ways. People constantly learn and change. Leaders must expect to live with uncertainties and challenges in a transformative environment. Despite anticipating apprehension when facing problems, leaders can embrace learning as a bridge between uncertainty and greater awareness, understanding, and confidence. The development of leaders rests upon their attitudes and beliefs, as well as the lessons that experience provides. Transformative learning offers one window into emerging leadership. Effective leadership is instrumental in all organizations. However, expectations of leadership shift

as society changes. This requires significant innovation in leadership approaches to maintain organizational effectiveness. Leadership approaches that may have worked in the past soon drift out of step with a rapidly changing society (Stringer, 1996; White, Nair, & Ascroft, 1994).

3 This dissertation focused on how six emerging leaders learned from their experiences and how they defined and enacted their leadership styles. Their learning opportunities and their experiences included both their successes and their failures. A major focus of this study was the key learning experiences of the participants based on their exposure to a collegiate leadership development program. Participants were selected as volunteers for this research study because they successfully completed a collegiate leadership development program that involved emerging organizational and community leaders. This research study was designed to examine the experiences and perspectives of a purposive sample of millennials with regard to emergent community and organizational leadership. This study sought to assess the subsequent development of their approach to leadership. Statement of the Problem The current research literature on leadership focuses primarily on established leaders, not emerging leaders. Emergent leadership with a focus on younger generations therefore represents an untapped area for research. Specifically, emerging millennial leaders may have beliefs and approaches toward leadership that differ from those of established leaders. These differences may collectively lead to a shift in the dominant paradigm about organizational and community leadership. Despite the wealth of information in the literature on the importance of effective leadership to organizations, communities, and stakeholders, minimal research has been generated regarding the experiences of emerging millennial leaders that led them to become effective leaders. Therefore, more research is needed in several areas:

4 • to delineate the characteristics, ideas, values, and practices of these emerging millennial leaders; • to highlight their experiences and how they might be influenced by others; • to determine who influenced their increasing effectiveness as leaders; • to review the learning opportunities that affect them as leaders; and, • to consider the effects of collegiate leadership development programs on the leadership of emerging leaders. Purpose of the Study This qualitative study explored how millennials defined and enacted their leadership styles and how they learned from their experiences as emerging community and organizational leaders. This study explored the characteristics, behaviors, and qualities that are emulated by emerging leaders, as well as the ideas, practices, and values that influenced them. The research also examined how participants were affected by their learning and the insights facilitated through participation in community service activities. This phenomenological study explored the experiences of emerging organizational leaders in various settings, as well as the learning experiences that influenced the development of their respective leadership styles. The research explored how selected emerging leaders developed leadership skills. In particular, it examined how they learned from successes and failures to become more effective as organizational and community leaders. This study also described the role of a collegiate leadership development program in helping emerging leaders to develop their approaches to leadership.

5 More research is being devoted to the impact of higher education service learning programs on students, the institutions and organizations that they represent, and the communities that they support. The establishment of a growing number of collegiate leadership development programs that emphasize community service is promising, yet limited research has been conducted that explores the effect of such leadership development programs on the current generation of students. One purpose of this study was to explore the effects of a higher educational leadership development program upon emerging millennial leaders. The project was designed in part to explore and explain student experiences that involved community service initiatives. This research study involved six student fellows who completed a collegiate leadership development program associated with a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, and one of several major research universities across the United States of America. Research Questions The study explored how emerging organizational and community leaders develop and exercise effective leadership, and in particular, how they learn from successes and failures to become even more effective organizational and community leaders. The primary research question was: • How do emerging leaders from a variety of organizations and community groups define and enact their leadership styles? The secondary research questions were: • How do various life experiences and the actions of others influence emerging organizational and community leaders?

6 • How do various learning opportunities affect emerging organizational and community leaders? • How is emergent organizational and community leadership fostered through a collegiate leadership development program?

Assumptions The researcher assumed that emerging leaders who had completed a collegiate leadership development program would place a premium on the importance of shared leadership. Shared leadership has implications for leaders and all others members of organizations. This approach implies a duty to assume an active role in contributing to activities and projects as part of cohesive teams. Leaders dedicated to serving others are effective at building positive relationships and establishing alliances. In doing so, participants navigate complex environments and should respect the culture of the organization. This study is also predicated upon the theory of transformational learning. The assumption therefore was that successful emerging leaders would embrace continuous learning that builds personal and organizational capacity. Conceptual and Theoretical Framework The conceptual framework for this study arose from the theories of transformational leadership, transformational learning, organizational learning, and community building. This study sought to identify key characteristics and practices of emerging leaders that might contribute to the domain of leadership. It examined the experiences and learning of this cohort of millennials. The influence of a collegiate leadership development program on emerging leaders was also an important focus.

7 Key Terms, Research Methods, and Means of Analysis Case-study research focuses on specific instances or cases that are explored in depth, usually for an extended period of time. Community development relies on engagement and cooperation, and it embraces the value of developmental leadership because of the nurturing essence of collaborative environments (Belenky et al., 1997).

Construct validity concerns how accurately certain phenomena of interest are gauged or measured. One way to boost construct validity is to use multiple measures (Yin, 1993, p. 39). Content analysis stresses how meaning is conveyed (Merriam, 2001). Cross-case

analysis begins after individual case analyses have been completed. It involves identifying issues and themes that run through multiple cases in an attempt to build hypotheses and form generalized conclusions (Yin, 1994). External validity concerns the reproducibility or applicability of research findings from one study to other cases, situations, or studies. In other words, are the findings generally true? (Merriam, 2001, p. 207). Focus groups , a form of exploratory research, are structured discussions led by a moderator who follows a predetermined format. In these discussions, participants give open-ended responses to questions scripted in advance. The moderator asks follow-up questions, as needed, to clarify or to get participants to elaborate upon their responses, particularly if unanticipated themes emerge from participants’ responses to open-ended questions.

8 Inductive reasoning goes from particular instances or occurrences (such as cases) to generalizations; its opposite is deductive reasoning, in which the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. Internal validity concerns whether research findings are accurate measures of reality. Interpretive research is based on an examination of lived experience through inductive reasoning. Millennials are also known as the millennial generation, generation next, the Net generation, or generation Y. This generation was born c. 1980–1999 according to many definitions, although some research places the start date sooner and end date later. Millennials were born after members of generation X (who were born c. 1965–1979), who followed the baby boomers (born c. 1946–1964). A key trait of the age cohort of millennials is comfort and familiarity with electronic communications (cell phones, instant messaging, text messaging, the Internet, and social networking Web sites). Organizational development can bring about organizational change and transformation through strategic structuring (Bell, French, & Zawacki, 2000).

Organizational learning occurs when a paradigm shift becomes deeply embedded in the ideas, values, and practices of an organization so that the conceptual learning is congruent with routine operations and procedures of the organization (Argyris & Schon, 1996). Phenomenological research seeks to delineate the structure of phenomena (Creswell, 1994, p. 157; Merriam, 2001, p. 158). Purposive sampling, unlike random sampling, deliberately seeks out certain types of individuals, to the exclusion of others. In other words, prospective participants are included only if they match explicit criteria.

9 For the purpose of this study, participants were selected because they were emerging leaders involved in a variety of organizations and community groups. Reliability means consistency in the sense that if the same questions were asked in the same way in a similarly designed research study, then they would yield the same answers or results. Team building involves developing meaningful relationships and fostering connectivity and collaboration around a shared goal or mission (Stanfield, 2000). Transformational leadership occurs when leaders, often through passionate conviction, can bring about constructive change, not only in organizational practices, but also in the organization’s vision, mission, or goals. Transformative learning occurs when new knowledge leads to a paradigm shift that is translated into significant behavioral or operational change in habitual ways of doing things because these practices are now seen in a new perspective (Mezirow, 2000). Triangulation is the process of using many different, independent sources of information or data or forms of measurement or data collection to strengthen confidence in the findings that emerge from research and the conclusions drawn from the research. Limitations of the Study This qualitative study incorporated limited sampling through case-study research of six emerging leaders. Therefore, its findings are neither necessarily representative nor projectable. Involving emerging leaders through purposive sampling from a variety of educational, business, and community organizations may have mitigated this limitation. The researcher administered a college leadership development program that all the participants completed. Because organizational practitioners serving as researchers have

10 a stake in supporting the advancement of such a study, it is important to acknowledge “the value-laden nature” of research in general (Creswell, 1994). It was important to minimize any researcher bias that might skew participant responses. To reduce researcher bias due to being in a position of authority in the program, an independent facilitator designed and conducted the focus group session, which also involved an outside observer. Additionally, 10 peer reviewers assessed the soundness of the study. Triangulation of the interview data was accomplished by incorporating leadership journals submitted by each participant, which documented key leadership observations by the participants. An artifact in the form of a leadership creed was also included to increase the internal validity of the study. An additional point of triangulation was a focus group, which involved all of the participants to further strengthen the study by utilizing an outside facilitator and observer to address potential researcher bias. A further delimitation of the study was that all of the prospective participants who agreed to participate happened to be female, although this was not part of the study design. Any possible gender differences between men and women in leadership styles and experiences were beyond the scope of this study. Additionally, the male researcher interpreted the experiences and reflections of the female participants, thereby possibly introducing unintended gender bias through filtering and distorting. All the participants in the study completed the same collegiate leadership development program together at the same time. All of these factors are further potential sources of bias, hence limitations in this study. Despite these limitations, this study holds promise for increasing understanding of leadership and learning.

11 Significance of the Study This study is significant because it provides additional knowledge that could aid in formulating new theories about organizational and community leadership as conceived and enacted by emerging leaders. Researching emerging leaders could uncover ways to enhance organizational effectiveness and community development as a new generation of leaders emerges. This study is significant because additional research that furthers the understanding of effective practices of emerging leaders in educational, business, and community organizations is valuable. The current body of research literature has focused upon established, seasoned leaders, not the younger generation of emerging leaders. These emerging leaders had been assimilated and socialized in ways that differ from the traditional hierarchical approach to organizational and community leadership, and their leadership styles vary from conventional approaches. This study is also significant because a better understanding of the connections between leadership development programs and community partnerships could lead to greater civic engagement by a new generation of leaders. In addition, this study is significant because additional knowledge and theories that advance the understanding of organizational and community leadership are valuable in a society struggling with governance in the 21 st century. Conclusion This study of emerging leaders who had participated in a collegiate leadership development program was built on the expectation that leaders can encourage others to put aside self-interest to benefit others. It sought to assess how they envisioned and

12 enacted their leadership styles. It identified what life experiences and learning opportunities influenced them. It also sought to assess how their participation in a collegiate leadership development program had influenced their leadership. Chapter II provides a review of the literature on transformational leadership, transformational learning, organizational learning, and community building. It also reviews literature regarding various generations, including millennials, because all the participants in the collegiate leadership development program were representatives of the millennial generation or generation Y. Chapter III provides a summary of the study methodology, including sampling, design of the study, and data analysis. Chapter IV provides an overview of the participants and presents the findings of the study, drawn from interviews and a focus group with participants, as well as excerpts from their leadership journals and leadership creeds. The discussion of the findings centers on the 12 themes that emerged from the data. Chapter V summarizes the participants and the findings, delineates the implications of the study, and presents recommendations and possible areas for future research, including the role of gender in leadership and the influence of generational cohorts, specifically how this set of millennials defined and enacted their leadership styles as representatives of various educational, business, and community organizations.

Full document contains 246 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the behaviors, experiences, perspectives, and values of emerging millennial leaders. The research explored how these emerging leaders defined and enacted their leadership styles, how they had been influenced by their life experiences and the actions of others, how they had been affected by various learning opportunities, and how their participation in a collegiate leadership development program had fostered their leadership. The research was comprised of six case studies of emerging organizational and community leaders. Interviews, journals, leadership creeds, and a focus group were used to collect the data. Twelve themes emerged from an analysis of the data: embracing differences, cultivating relationships, fostering collaboration, overcoming adversity, pursuing dreams, becoming pillars of inspiration, acquiring knowledge, engaging in reflection, striving for growth, pursuing civic engagement, building capacity, and envisioning millennial contributions. These emerging millennial leaders demonstrated ambidexterity, creativity, inclusivity, interactions with state-of-the art technology, teamwork, and a commitment to social justice. The participants had clear views about the interactive effects of leadership and learning. Implications for community and organizational leadership, learning, and development are that collaborative and shared approaches may prove to be the most effective. This research addresses a gap in the literature on leadership, which mostly has focused on established leaders from preceding generations rather than upon emerging leaders from the millennial generation.