Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Co-chairperson; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Co-chairperson; Afsaneh Nahavandi, PhD, Member; Robyn Walker, PhD, Member


Transcultural, communication, leadership, teamwork, discourse analysis


The increasingly globalized U.S. workforce includes significant numbers of adult immigrants integrating into the North American professional sphere. As such, it is important to have concrete ways to study and interpret different cultures’ thinking about teamwork, and their models of enacting shared leadership and communication in a multicultural context. Since 2006, hundreds of millions in federal grant funding has been invested in university-based language and culture programs focused on training government personnel and heritage populations in the languages and cultures of the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia. Little is known about the performative strengths and challenges of the culturally diverse project teams that so often staff these grant programs. Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants’ understanding and definitions of constructs like leadership, authority, and teamwork, are not well represented in contemporary leadership studies scholarship. Given this, there are few actionable best practices to implement when leading or working in and among culturally diverse teams.

To address this issue, the study analyzed and compared 12 participants’ perceptions on the nature of leadership, authority, teamwork, and communication in both their cultures of origin and in their experiences in the U.S. It also examined participants’ workplace discourse produced in the performance of group decision-making tasks.

The study entailed analyzing video and audio recorded (a) one-on-one qualitative interviews and (b) group decision-making meetings —with and among Arabic, Afghan, Chinese, and Persian language and culture instructors participating in a federally funded teacher-training program at a public university in the southwestern United States. Interview data were analyzed qualitatively, focusing on participants’ cultural definitions of leadership, authority, teamwork, and professional communications. The group meetings were studied using discourse analysis techniques; the quantitative discourse analysis results were compared with themes that emerged from the qualitative interviews.

The results strongly suggest culture’s ability to constrain or liberate individuals’ and groups’ productive participation in team interactions. The discourse data reinforced several important qualitative findings —and also suggested practical implications for leading culturally diverse teams. The overall findings affirm the utility of discourse analysis as a method for studying transcultural leadership, while also highlighting the non-monolithic nature of world cultures.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies