Karen Dawson


Leadership from the File Room to the Board Room: A Grounded Theory Inquiry into the Influences of a Leadership Development Program on Participants

In this qualitative study, I explored the influences of an 18-month long leadership development program offered within a large, public service organization on the professional and personal lives of graduates. Researching from a social constructionist stance, I chose to use situational analysis, a variation of grounded theory methodology, to frame the study. I collected the first round of data using a matrix interviewing methodology during which research participants interviewed each other about the influences that the program had on them, and then the participants conducted the initial analysis of the data. The second round of data was collected through one-on-one interviews, and I analyzed the data using situational analysis maps and mind maps. 

The resultant theorizing indicated that although the influences of the program vary widely, the Leadership Development Program created a safe space in which participants engaged in conversations that stretched and challenged their thinking and feeling about themselves, their relationships, and their performance of leadership. Research participants reported that they show up in life and at work differently as a result of the program experience, and that they have new language with which to talk about leadership in their personal and professional lives.