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What community leaders say about the leadership process: A mixed methods study of identity, resilience, and self-efficacy

Dissertation
Author: Richard Whitney
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to investigate what business leaders say about their experiences of becoming a leader, specifically as related to identity, self-efficacy, and resilience within the leader identity process. A mixed methods design was used that incorporated qualitative inquiry and the analysis of survey results in a sequential exploratory manner. The qualitative interviews data was collected and analyzed according to phenomenological research methods. The data was then binarized to allow additional statistical analyses to determine if any structure was suggested through correlations and factor analysis. A survey was also administered to business and community leaders and the results analyzed with chi-square test of independence. Although the qualitative interviews and quantitative survey data were analyzed separately, both components were integrated in the discussion section. Eight themes were identified in the qualitative data. These themes were Cumulative Effect, Self-Awareness, Idealism/Realism, Valuing Other Leaders, Takes Risks, Passion/Energy, Not About Me, Legacy/Lasting Difference. Additionally, the construct of an interrupted leader was introduced as a design element for this particular study. Interrupted leaders are defined as those leaders that lost an election, were fired, or someone who decided to "take a break" during their leadership experience. This construct was designed to study the phenomena of the leader identity process, and should not be construed as a failed or poor leader. Defining moments, or the realization of one's own abilities as a leader were also discussed as an important piece of the leader's identity process. Other findings include how leaders' label themselves and see their process within the context of other leaders, which supports a transformational approach to leadership. Many of the findings support the transformational leadership approach of each member contributing to the overall success of a group and the collaboration of like-minded individuals. There is evidence of the influence of self-efficacy and resilience on the role of a leader and the process of identity development.

Table of Contents

ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………………………..….iii LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………………………….……xiii

CHAPTER ONE. Introduction…………………………………………….……….…..1 Components of Leadership………………………………………………………..3 Identity…………………………………………………………………….3 Self-Efficacy………………………………………………………………4 Resilience………………………………………………………………….4 Overlapping Theories of Identity, Leadership, Self-efficacy, Resiliency...5 Problem Statement and Definitions.………………………………………………5 Definition of Leadership…………………………………………………..6 Definition of Identity……………………………………………………...7 Interrupted Leaders………………………………………………………..8 Need for the Study………………………………………………………………...8 Purpose of the Study……………………………………………………………..10

What Community Leaders Say viii CHAPTER TWO. Review of Related Literature……………………………...……..11 Literature on Identity ..………………………………………………………..…12 Erik Erikson……………………………………………………………...12 James Marcia…………………………………………………………….15 Identity Theories that Build on Erikson and Marcia……………………..17 Summary of the Identity Literature………………………………………20 Literature on Leadership…………………………………………………………20 Social Change Model of Leadership Development……………………...21 The Individual……………………………………………………22 Group and Community……………………………………….….23 Leadership Literature Regarding Identity, Self-Awareness…………..…25 Early Leadership Trait Theories Regarding Identity…………………….27 Leadership Psychodynamic Approach…………………………………..27 Transformational Leadership Theory……………………………………28 Group Contributions to the Individual…………………………………..29 Chaos and Complexity Contributions…………………………………....31 The Self………………………………………………………………………….33 Self-Efficacy……………………………………………………………………..35 Resiliency…………………………………..……………………………………37 Identity, Leadership, Self-efficacy, and Resilience Convergence………………38

CHAPTER THREE. Methodology……………………………………………………40 Framework and Background .……………………………………………………40

What Community Leaders Say ix Researcher Role……………………………………………………..…..40 Research Design ……………….………………………………………………..41 Mixed Method Design……………………………………………..……41 Sequential Exploratory Design…………………………………………43 Research Questions………….……………………………………………...……44 Research Sample……………………..………………………………………….45 Qualitative Participant Selection and Recruitment Procedures…………46 Interview Participants………….………………………………..47 Brief Descriptions of the Participants………………..………….48 Quantitative Sampling and Instrument Distribution Procedures……..…49 Survey Participants………………………………………………50 Mixed Method Data Collection …..…………………………………………….50 Qualitative Interview Procedures and Data Collection………………….50 Qualitative Interview Data Analysis……………………………………..52 Thematic Analysis…………………….………………………....52 Quantitative Analysis of the Qualitative Data…………………………………..54 Quantitative Survey Procedure and Data Collection…………………………….56 Survey Instrument Validity………………………………………………57 Survey Instrument Reliability………………………………………..….58 Survey Instrument Distribution Procedures and Time Frames………….59 Quantitative Analysis of the Quantitative Data………………………………….59 Qualitative Analysis of the Quantitative Data…………………………………..61 Integration of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods……………………………61

What Community Leaders Say x

CHAPTER FOUR. Results and Analysis…………………………………………..…63 Qualitative Results from the Qualitative Data…………………………………..63 Definitions and Themes…………………………………………………63 Themes from the Interviews……………………………………………..64 Cumulative Effect………………………………………………..64 Self-Awareness……………………………………………….….67 Idealism/Realism…………………………………………………69 Value Other Leaders………………………………………..……72 Taking Risks……………………………………………………..74 Passion/Energy……………………………………………..……75 Not About Me……………………………………………………77 Legacy/Lasting Difference……………………………………….78 Events of Defining Moments and Interruptions………………………….79 Defining Moments……………………………………..………..80 Interruptions……………………………………………………...82 Evidence of Self-Efficacy and Resilience……………………………….84 Self-Efficacy…………………………………………………….85 Resilience……………………………………………………….86 Quantitative Results from the Qualitative Data ………………………………..88 Number of Leadership Roles and Ages of Leadership Events………….88 Quantitative Results from the Quantitative Data ……………………………......91 Further Discussion about Interrupted Leaders………………………...…93

What Community Leaders Say xi Results of the Other Self-Awareness Items………………………...……94 Age at which One First Sought a Leadership Role……………………..95 Leader Attitude Inventory………………………………………………………..95 Chi Square Analysis……………………………………………………..96 Qualitative Results from the Quantitative Data ………..……………………......97 Results of the Open-Ended Survey Questions……….………………..…97

CHAPTER FIVE. Summary and Interpretation of the Results…………………....100 Themes from the Interviews ...………………………………………………....101 Themes Applied to the Open-Ended Survey Questions………………..104 Interrupted Leaders…………………………………………………………….104 Attributes of the Participants………………………………………………...…106 Defining Moments…………………………………………………………..….107 Leadership Definitions………………………………………………………….108 Title of Leader…………………………………………………………….……109 The Quantity of Leadership Positions…………………………………………..110 Multicultural Issues Within the Leadership Context…………………………...111 Leader Attitude Inventory……………………………………………………...112 Resilience……………………………………………………………...………..114 Self-Efficacy……………………………………………………………...…….116 Integration with the Literature………………………………………………….117 Non-Linearity…………….……………………………………………………..119 Implications…………………………………………………………………..…120

What Community Leaders Say xii Theoretical Implications …..…………………………………………...120 Research Implications ……..…………………………………………...121 Applied Implications ………………..………………………………….122 Limitations of the Study……………………………………………………...…122 Future Directions……………………………………………………………….123 REFERENCES………………………………………………………………………...126 APPENDIXES…………………………………………………………………………132

What Community Leaders Say xiii List of Tables

TABLE 1 Ages of particular leadership events of the five interview participants .88 TABLE 2 Intensity Effect Sizes and Frequencies for the Eight Themes Associated with Participant Interviews ………………..……………………………89 TABLE 3 Intercorrelations Among all Themes ..…………………………….……90 TABLE 4 Frequency percentages of selected survey items .………………………93 TABLE 5 At what age did you first seek a leadership role?...……………………...95 TABLE 6 Results for the chi-square test for independence for the five significant survey questions …………..…………………………………………….97

What Community Leaders Say 1 CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

As a society, we understand leadership is present in all areas and at many levels. We need leadership. We seem to like leadership based on the number of books one can find on the shelves in a bookstore; Martin Luther King, Jr on Leadership, The Tao of Leadership, and Primal Leadership for example (Goleman, 2002; Heider, 1985; Phillips, 1999). We look for ways to study leadership so we can be better leaders and teach others to be better leaders. As we study leadership and derive theories, models and approaches, we begin to understand the big picture of leadership (Burns, 2003; Kan, 2002). These approaches and “numerous theories and an enormous amount of empirical work,” (p. 361) tend to address the big picture of leadership at a global level (Alvesson, M & Sveningsson, S., 2003). While theory is important, when the center of attention is placed at the global level of leadership, ironically it can produce myopic results. Leadership is about more than theories (Burns, 2003). For a better understanding and applicability of the idea of leadership, we need to move the lens from a global concept and focus on the individual. There is a dearth of literature on how an individual assumes the identity of a leader, that is, the synthesis of skill and understanding to know the leader within. The literature that does address leadership and identity, however, is a moving target. The word identity itself is often used synonymously with descriptors like self-awareness and consciousness of self. This concept of the moving target that says leader identity must be present before one enters the process of becoming a leader; then identity increasingly develops during the leadership experience; and ultimately one’s overall identity will be different after having been a leader (Bennis & Nanus, 1985;

What Community Leaders Say 2 Gardner, 1990; Higher Education Research Institute, 1996; Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998; Kouzes & Posner, 1995; Lord & Hall, 2005). This dance of identity before, during, and after may hold true, but the question remains: when and how does leadership identity occur? There has to be more to becoming a leader than “it just happens.” That moving target of leadership and identity is actually off target. Leadership does not have an identity, leaders do. Here again we find problems in the literature. The popular press seems to be laden with examples of strong leaders and their leadership accomplishments. Although these examples do move the discussion toward concentration on the individual leader, they can become more of a gimmick than an understanding. These ubiquitous textbook examples eventually begin to sound alike. See Dick. Dick is a leader. See the big bad guys; they bring big bad problems or situations. Enter Dick. Remember, Dick is a leader and knows he is a leader (before). Dick can do it…work…work…work…solve…solve…solve. Dick did it! He is a leader! Dick learned he was a leader (during). Dick was great. Dick is a better leader (after). Oh, see Jane. Jane is there too. We have started acknowledging that Jane is a leader too. See all the others. They are leaders too, you will see! Providing stories of leaders and a string of edited best practices seemingly brings leadership to an individual level. What is often left out, however, is a discussion of when the exemplar identified as a leader. When the exemplar, or any leader for that matter, realized she was a leader.

What Community Leaders Say 3 Components of Leadership Within this study, the components of leadership have included identity, self- efficacy, and resilience. By first refocusing the attention from leadership in general to the process of the leader we have moved closer to the core of the study. From there it was proper to use identity theory to approach the leader’s consciousness of self. There seems to be evidence that self-efficacy and resilience have supported the leader’s identity process nicely. The following explanations and definitions help to explain the importance of identity, self-efficacy, and resilience to the study of a leader’s identity process.

Identity The process of identification as a leader is largely about self-awareness. Leadership is not learned in a classroom or from a book or pamphlet. It is contextual learning, discovered through the experience of being a leader. This concept of “learning in context” holds true in most areas of our lives. Whatever we are learning from algebra to programming the VCR is meaningless until we can create meaning for it for ourselves and the light goes on. All the confusing “let me put it this way” conversations are for naught until that sudden-illuminating-realization - the ah ha moment. Leaders must also come to that same realization through experience. The meaning of leadership can be created the moment one understands he/she is a leader. That pivotal point seems to be about identifying as a leader and seeing oneself as a leader. This micro experience (individual) provides the context for the application of the macro (global) theory of leadership. Thus, leadership theory can be too broad, exemplars of leadership can be too

What Community Leaders Say 4 specific, and the resulting examples may lack any relative context for an individual leader.

Self-efficacy The theory behind self-efficacy is that one believes she can, or has the ability to, accomplish a prescribed task or goal (Bandura, 1977). One’s perception of his or her ability (i.e., self-efficacy) would contribute to one’s decision to enter the process of leadership (before) as well as continuing on the path of leadership (during). Self-efficacy contributes to one’s belief about his ability and encourages continued momentum with practice and experience. If we accept the before, during, and after identity process then the act of being a leader seems to be a continuous awareness of ability. This process of leader identification is a function of her experiential context as well as a belief she has the ability to be an effective leader. Although the leadership literature discusses the concept of self-efficacy, it does not name it explicitly as a foundational aspect of being a leader.

Resilience A sense of ability could be met with an occasional test of resilience of some magnitude. Neither life, nor leadership, is a linear path free of stress or set backs. The ability to move through and grow from the leadership experience seems to draw on an inner strength. This strength is enhanced as the perception of success, as well as the understanding of perceived weaknesses, expands. The leader’s ability to access this inner strength and rebound from interruptions, or setbacks, during his/her experience as a leader may be a measure of resiliency (Bernard, 2004; Siebert, 2005). Resiliency is the

What Community Leaders Say 5 ability to be flexible when approaching the unknown as well as the ability to overcome adversity. To understand the experiences of leaders and the leader identity process the perceptions of ability and potential need for resiliency must be explored which brings the global concept of leadership, self-efficacy, and resilience back to the individual. Once again, leadership does not have an identity, leaders do.

Overlapping Theories of Identity, Leadership, Self-efficacy and Resiliency This section provides a brief overview of each of these theories (i.e., identity, leadership, and self-efficacy) to establish how they interrelate. This bricolage of overlapping theories is a good fit for the interdisciplinary approach to leadership and identity within a sequential design (Denzin & Licoln, 2000). It assembles an understanding from the culmination of the existing literatures with new ideas (Mithuang, 2000). In the recent past there have been other studies resembling the present one (Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, & Osteen, 2005; Van Kippenberg, Van Kippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2004), but, again, they fail to address the question of when or how leader identity occurs from the perspective of an internal realization or a defining moment.

Problem Statement and Definitions In order to more fully understand the leader’s micro-level identity process the macro understanding of leadership and an attempt to narrow down the before, during, and after approach in the literature must be addressed. Additionally, terms such as consciousness, self, and awareness must be defined within the leadership context. The

What Community Leaders Say 6 current discussion about leadership and identity has recently received more attention in the literature. However, while addressing leadership identity these other articles do not address where in the leadership process it occurs or how self-awareness mediates the process of developing the leader’s identity. The Komives et al. article (2005) seems to be the closest to discussing identity development. Their article approaches leadership development as the leader moves from a self-centered perspective to a relational perspective. In order to study the awareness of the individual and to determine how the identity within one’s self germinates, then additional studies need to be done.

Definition of Leadership

Leadership is a word so common that the definition is almost elusive. One author stated that there were “more than 350 definitions” of the word (Bennis & Nanus, 1985, p. 4). Rost was cited claiming there were “at least 221” (Rost 1991 as cited in Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998, p. 30). Notice the number of definitions decreased by 129 over the time span between those books. This is not to point out an error, but to show that the definition of leadership is vague and hard to track even for the published researchers. The multiplicities of definitions also have different focus: Some definitions, for example, have emphasized the importance of leaders exercising influence (Sims Jr. & Lorenzi, 1992), others the need for collaboration, and still others focused on the importance of relationships in leadership (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Gardner, 1990; Higher Education Research Institute, 1996; Kouzes & Posner, 1995; Northouse, 2004; Spears, 1998). For the purposes of this study, “leadership is a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good”

What Community Leaders Say 7 (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998, p. 31). This definition was selected because it includes several of the themes that have been identified in other leadership definitions (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998).

Definition of Identity In order to define identity in a leadership context the foundational work of Erik Erikson was included. Erikson (1980) focused on the cognitive process of identity formation. According to Erikson, a personal identity was based on two different observations. The first was from the person’s immediate perception of his selfsameness and its continuity in time. The second observation happens simultaneously and it is the perception that others recognize one’s sameness and continuity (Erikson, 1997). This personal identity intimates that identity includes how others see the person, or more pointedly, how the individual sees others seeing him. Erikson’s ego identity included “awareness of a selfsameness and continuity of the ego’s synthesizing methods and that the methods are effective in safeguarding the sameness and continuity of one’s meaning for others” (p. 22). One’s identity is comprised of how one sees himself, how he thinks others see him, and how he interprets his own meaning for others. Marcia et al. offered a definition of identity as a synthesis of childhood skills that gives the young adult both a sense of continuity with the past and a direction for the future (Marcia, Waterman, Matteson, Archer, & Orlofsky, 1993). By applying this definition to leaders, we have applied this explanation to this study for leadership purposes. Consider the new definition: leader identity is a synthesis of skills that gives the leader both a sense of continuity with the past and a direction for the future.

What Community Leaders Say 8 Interrupted Leaders So-called interrupted leaders have not previously been identified in the literature. Hence, no specific literature exists about interrupted leaders. An interrupted, leader for the purpose of this study, was defined as a person whose leadership experience was interrupted along the way by either outside circumstances, such as losing an election or being asked to step down, or by personal circumstances such as an illness or sudden life changes. Examples of interrupted leaders are Al Gore who lost the 2000 presidential election. Other examples of interrupted leaders would be Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter both of whom lost elections. These leaders although “interrupted,” continue to be viewed as world leaders. In this context, there was no value judgment about the leadership experience of these leaders, nor are they considered failed leaders. The use of these political/public leaders merely provides examples of the interrupted leadership path. It was assumed that interrupted leaders would have richer descriptions within the identity process of a leader because they had to make difficult decisions to continue on the leadership path.

Need for the study

The fact that self-awareness seems to be both a pre-requisite for and a product of, being a leader, would suggest that the need to understand the process of becoming a leader in order to further develop leadership practice. By combining what we have learned about leadership with what we have learned about identity and self-efficacy and resiliency we can move toward a deeper understanding of how and when individual leaders identified as a leader, as well as the how they remained leaders.

What Community Leaders Say 9 The idea of linking identity and leadership seems to be an area of growing interest in the literature. Over the last few years, there have been several studies discussing leadership and identity (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2003; Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, & Osteen, 2005; Lord & Hall, 2005; Popper, 2005; Van Kippenberg, Van Kippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2004). These studies, having been published in refereed journals, add to the credibility of conducting a study like the present one. Alvesson and Sveningsson, for example, suggest there should be further leadership research conducted in the areas of “behavior, meanings, identity and discourse” (2003, p. 380) to explore the convergence of these topics. Additionally, the article Leadership, Self, and Identity (Van Kippenberg, Van Kippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2004) discussed at length how the leader provides a framework for the group identity. They also posited that in order for the leader to influence the group he must also understand his identity, self, or self-concept (all words they present as synonyms). Lord and Hall (2005) explicitly stated that a leader’s self-view “may also be an important cue to access knowledge related to leadership” (p. 611). With regard to the individual leader, self-efficacy was also established as an area in need of additional research about leadership and leaders (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2003; Lord & Hall, 2005; Popper, 2005; Van Kippenberg, Van Kippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2004). Hence, the need for research concerning leaders, identity, and self-efficacy was acknowledged in the existing leadership literature. This study was unique in the sense that resiliency was also acknowledged as a component of the study. The future orientation of how one proceeds with an expanded identity due to their leader-ness might indicate that the after effect in leadership should be a where-do- we-go-from-here effect.

What Community Leaders Say 10 Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to investigate what identified business and community leaders say about their experiences of becoming and being leaders. A mixed method design was used to explore identity, self-efficacy, and resilience as they relate to understanding the leadership process. The use of a mixed qualitative and quantitative design allow triangulation of the data in order to understand the individual, and the somewhat elusive process of becoming a leader. The research questions are: 1. How do business leaders describe their experience of becoming a leader? 2. How do these leaders perceive that the characteristics of self-efficacy and/or resilience influenced their becoming and remaining a leader? The attempt to answer these questions was done by first conducting in-depth interviews. These interviews were transcribed and themes were identified. A survey was administered to a larger sample of identified business leaders. The survey data was then analyzed quantitatively using appropriate statistical analyses and results were compared to the findings from the interviews to determine if the verbal descriptions of the few interviewees are corroborated quantitatively by the larger sample. The integration of themes, descriptions, and survey findings address the research questions and explore the perceptions of identity, self-efficacy, and resilience in the leadership process. This sequential mixed design was used to investigate what leaders say about leadership to understand their process of becoming and remaining a leader.

Full document contains 163 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate what business leaders say about their experiences of becoming a leader, specifically as related to identity, self-efficacy, and resilience within the leader identity process. A mixed methods design was used that incorporated qualitative inquiry and the analysis of survey results in a sequential exploratory manner. The qualitative interviews data was collected and analyzed according to phenomenological research methods. The data was then binarized to allow additional statistical analyses to determine if any structure was suggested through correlations and factor analysis. A survey was also administered to business and community leaders and the results analyzed with chi-square test of independence. Although the qualitative interviews and quantitative survey data were analyzed separately, both components were integrated in the discussion section. Eight themes were identified in the qualitative data. These themes were Cumulative Effect, Self-Awareness, Idealism/Realism, Valuing Other Leaders, Takes Risks, Passion/Energy, Not About Me, Legacy/Lasting Difference. Additionally, the construct of an interrupted leader was introduced as a design element for this particular study. Interrupted leaders are defined as those leaders that lost an election, were fired, or someone who decided to "take a break" during their leadership experience. This construct was designed to study the phenomena of the leader identity process, and should not be construed as a failed or poor leader. Defining moments, or the realization of one's own abilities as a leader were also discussed as an important piece of the leader's identity process. Other findings include how leaders' label themselves and see their process within the context of other leaders, which supports a transformational approach to leadership. Many of the findings support the transformational leadership approach of each member contributing to the overall success of a group and the collaboration of like-minded individuals. There is evidence of the influence of self-efficacy and resilience on the role of a leader and the process of identity development.