Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Antonio Jimenez-Luque, PhD, Chair Marie Lockton, EdD, Member Nydia C. Sanchez, PhD, Chair


Leadership, leadership development, manager development, leadership development programs, storytelling, meaning making


Leadership development programs (LDPs) have long been recognized as a means for organizations to develop their leaders, yet studies on their efficacy or use of creative interventions are limited. Despite the plethora of leadership studies that exist today, research is still seeking to answer the question: what is the best way to develop leaders? This qualitative study sought to investigate how storytelling can be used as an intervention for leadership development in a manager development program (MDP), an LDP for entry-level to midlevel managers at a biotechnology corporation. Using storytelling as an Indigenous model for knowledge cocreation as a framework, this study used a narrative inquiry approach to highlight the voices and lived experiences of the participants in the MDP through a cohort-based focus group, individual interviews, and the analysis of leadership maps created during their leadership journey.

Three themes emerged from this study: (a) storytelling allowed participants to engage in deep reflection and individual meaning-making for increased self-awareness; (b) storytelling created a collective process for mitigating fear, establishing trust, practicing empathy, and thus fostering a sense of belonging among the cohort; and (c) graduates felt confident in their ability to build brave spaces, create connection among their team members, and affirm their own leadership identity in the organization.

Findings revealed that storytelling in an LDP reinforces leadership that calls for engagement at work on a deeply human level that humanizes direct reports, colleagues, and managers across the organization. In the context of LDPs, storytelling can act as a vehicle for meaning-making for participants to better understand their own individual identity and their leadership identity, along with leadership behaviors in the context of the organization.

Finally, this study contributes to literature on leadership theory in practice by using storytelling as an intervention for leadership development. This study adds to existing scholarship surrounding the benefits of trust, empathy, and community in leadership. In summary, findings from this study suggest Indigenous ways of knowing, such as storytelling, can prove to be effective behavioral interventions for leaders participating in LDPs.

Keywords: Leadership, leadership development, leadership development programs, storytelling, meaning making

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies