Date of Conferral
William D. Steeves, Jr
Previous research on leadership as archetype considered archetype as metaphor and not as it is understood in other literatures as a collectively accepted and defined role within and across cultures. Archetypical theories are posited as useful because they help us understand universal aspects of human behavior; however, empirical research demonstrating archetypical thinking and behavior remains rare. Accordingly, this phenomenological study investigated whether a leadership archetype exists as a shared cognitive template and if so, what characteristics define it. The theoretical framework used to examine the phenomenon of leadership combined leadership theory, philosophy of the mind, Jungian psychology, social constructionist theory, and neuro-linguistic programming. Data were collected in semi-structured interviews from a convenience sample of 10 Midwestern subjects belonging to professional and social organizations and having an expressed interest in leadership. Interviews were coded and sequentially analyzed using a semiotic--phenomenological method that included thematic descriptions, reduction, and interpretation. Results failed to identify an archetypical view of a leader, but identified choice and attribution as key elements in selecting leaders and accepting their leadership. These findings suggested an explanation of leadership as a group consensus that emerges through a dynamic process rather than solely from leader behavior. Implications for positive social change result from the study's contribution toward further understanding of the psychology of leader selection and follower behavior. Given the multiplicity of existing leadership models, the insights gained from this research contribute to the scholarly literature highlighting group-dynamic influences and can lead to improvements in leadership training and leadership development outcomes.