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Dissertation Abstract

Leadership Development by Divine Design: An Exploration of Christian Leadership Emergence Theory in the Corporate Context

Anita G. Stadler
July 2008

Leadership emergence theory is a theory of Christian leadership development that has guided leaders in ministry for more than 20 years (Clinton, J. R., 2005). Over 3,000 case studies have demonstrated the applicability of leadership emergence theory for Christian leaders from numerous cultures across the globe, but always within the context of Christian ministries or service organizations. This study explored whether leadership emergence theory is applicable for Christian leaders who hold leadership roles in secular corporations. A qualitative, multiple-case study of five Christian leaders who have attained positions within three levels of CEO in large corporations sought to determine (a) whether or not these leaders have been shaped by the types of developmental experiences identified in leadership emergence theory, (b) whether or not they are aware of the importance of their response to these experiences for their development, (c) whether or not they have changed their views of past events as the passage of time has enabled clearer insight, and (d) whether or not exposure to the concepts of leadership emergence theory would open them to deeper development as a leader. Cross-case analysis confirmed that leadership emergence theory is applicable for Christian leaders who work in the corporate context with one key condition. The study revealed that an additional context, the mindset of the leader, may be as important as the external context of the workplace in determining the applicability of leadership emergence theory for an individual leader. The context in which leadership occurs has seldom been the primary focus of research on leadership (Porter & McLaughlin, 2006), which increases the importance of this study since it explored the applicability of a theory of leadership development in a different context than the context in which it was originally articulated. In addition, this study contributes to the evidence that Christian leaders who work in the corporate context view their spiritual development as being highly relevant to their development as leaders. This study provides insight that can be used to broaden corporate leadership development approaches, enhance executive coaching programs, and revitalize succession planning strategies.