Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Afsaneh Nahavandi, Ph.D., Chair; Zachary Gabriel Green, Ph.D., Member; Touraj Daryaee, Ph.D., Member; Kaveh Abhari, Ph.D., Member


Iran, Persian, cultural leadership, leadership ideals, non-Western leadership, leadership


In light of many current financial and ethical crises, scholars have called for looking beyond our existing Western-based approaches for innovative leadership practices. Recent research about the success and unique management practices of Indian corporations (Cappelli et al., 2010) shows a unique style based on both people and profit and one that blends capitalist profit-based structures with caring for people and community. That research has been the basis for suggestions for the existence of a distinct Indo-European leadership (IEL) style (Nahavandi, 2012a; Nahavandi & Krishnan, 2017) with philosophical roots in Iran and India and provides impetus for looking beyond Western models of leadership.

The Iranian culture, a member of the Indo-European family, has developed over the past 25 hundred years. Contacts with many nations and cultures, continuous interactions with Western societies and the influences of Zoroastrianism and Islam have resulted in significant cultural transformation and diversity in the country. However, many cultural elements have survived in spite of profound social challenges and changes and a distinct culture has evolved with unique ideals of leadership which are clearly reflected in Iran’s rich literary traditions.

This study, which is part of a long-term research agenda, relies on that literary tradition along with recent research that suggests ideals of Iranian and Indo-European leadership to explore the existence and practice of ideals of Iranian leadership (ILI). Through document analysis, and a two-phase mixed-methods design that included 6 pilot interviews with Iranian leaders from different disciplines and a survey of 335 Iranian leaders who reside both in Iran and elsewhere in the world, the purpose was to identify what Iranian leaders endorse as culturally-based ILIs, and the extent to which they practice culturally-based ILIs in their organizations. Results indicate distinct ILIs and differences between endorsed and practiced culturally-based ILIs. The factors that impact ILIs and their practice were further explored. The application of ILI to other cultural settings and limitations of this study are also presented.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies