Adversity and obstacles in the shaping of prominent leaders : a hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry / Howard Edward Haller.
This hermeneutic phenomenological study was conducted to investigate the possible relationship or impact that adversity, obstacles, and challenges had on the shaping and development of prominent leaders. The nine primary participants were two current U.S. Senators, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Major General, a President of a large educational foundation who previously was chancellor of one large university and president of another, a well-known author and motivational speaker, and the Chairman and Chief Executives Officers of four major companies.The primary participants, prior to becoming prominent leaders, experienced various degrees of adversity in their youth and adult lives. These difficult experiences included being a Holocaust victim and being interned in a Nazi concentration camp at age 7; seeing his mother killed in front of him at age 14; two tours of duty in U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam; losing a right arm in battle in World War II; the premature death of a parent; discrimination including racial, gender, or age; death of a business partner; going broke in businesses; take-over attempts of his business; losing an election; personal relationship strife or divorce; coping with dysfunctional and deceitful regulators; being investigated by regulatory and legislatures who had their own political agendas; extreme poverty; and other adversities.Several themes became apparent during the interviews and in the explication of the data, including the following: (a) early adversity in their youth, while important, was not the most important or seminal event in their lives; (b) obstacles and adversity were perceived as challenges which could be turned into opportunities; (c) facing adversity and successfully overcoming obstacles was important in their progression and growth as leaders; (d) having mentors to help guide, motivate, and inspire them was very important; (e) being a Servant-Leader, serving people, and being humble were essential; (f) having a strong religious faith and or strong family ties, or both, was important and helpful; and (g) their concepts and ideas about the nature of leadership influenced their experiences heavily. This research included substantive peer debriefing of my research findings by Ken Blanchard, Jim Kouzes, John Kotter, Paul Stoltz, and Meg Wheatley.
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