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Dissertation Abstract

Calling and Leader Identity: Utilizing Narrative Analysis to Construct a Stage Model of Calling Development

Frank A. Markow
February 2007

Calling is an important construct within emerging areas of leadership theory. Yet, little is known about how calling is experienced in the life of a leader, particularly the context, antecedents, and consequences of calling. Narrative analysis has been cited in the literature as an ideal method for exploring heretofore little known aspects of spiritual leadership and authentic leadership. The present research utilized narrative analysis on textual data from a sample of experienced and successful pastoral leaders in the Western United States as exemplars of the phenomenon of calling. Using thematic content analysis to examine 12 in-depth life story narratives, it was found that themes clustered into five distinct stages: (a) precalling antecedents; (b) recognition of the call through spiritual awakening and involvement; (c) realization of the call through experience, mentoring, and preparation for vocational service; (d) struggle to separate from previous relationships, roles, and identities; and (e) identity integration and the role merger of faith and work with subsequent wrestling with preferred roles and possible selves. In addition to this stage model, three distinct types of calling experiences were identified. These types were developed into prototypical cross-case calling narratives utilizing Plummer’s (1995) plot structure of suffering, crisis, and transformation. Finally, a general psychological structure of calling and leader identity formation was extrapolated from these narratives to give a clinical description of the calling experience. Implications for theory and practice along with recommendations for further research based on the developed model are also considered.