An existential-phenomenological framework for understanding leadership development experiences

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework for better understanding leadership development experiences by melding the existential-phenomenological (E-P) perspective with the leadership literature.

Design/methodology/approach – This study used questionnaires to elicit leadership development experiences. A sample of US Army officers provided 117 unique experiences. Various computational methods were used to empirically determine the essential elements and structure of these experiences.

Findings – The results provide support for the proposition that beneficial experiences were rated higher than non-beneficial experiences on five elements: challenge, self-efficacy, sociality, relevance, and reflectivity. Four of the five elements were represented by two components: an interpersonal component (sociality and relevance), and an intrapersonal component (self-efficacy and challenge). A fifth element, reflectivity, was related to, but distinct from, both components. Reflectivity may bridge or connect the intrapersonal and the interpersonal components.

Research limitations/implications – The research was limited to a sample of US Army officers. Future research should seek to replicate the findings in larger and more diverse samples, for example, the private sector. These efforts are currently planned.

Practical implications – The conceptual framework and method for understanding experiences that facilitate leadership development can be used by any organization. The present framework and findings are consistent with other approaches to leadership development (e.g. the competency approach).

Originality/value – This study used a unique and tractable approach for understanding leadership development experiences. The elements and structure of beneficial experiences were empirically determined using a number of computational methods; heretofore, this has not been done.

Original Citation

Olivares, O.J., Peterson, G., Hess, K.P. (2007). An existential-phenomenological framework for understanding leadership development experiences. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28(1), 76-91.