Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, EdD, Chair; Antonio Jiménez-Luque, PhD, Member; René Molenkamp, PhD, Member


developmental leadership coaching, vertical development, collaborative developmental action inquiry, unitive consciousness, wholeness, constructive-developmental theory


The planetary, societal, and personal challenges of our times call for the expansion of leaders’ consciousness. More comprehensive and integrated ways of making meaning of self and systems are required to navigate the current levels of complexity. Based on constructive-developmental theory, developmental leadership coaching supports leaders in this evolution.

The literature on developmental coaching converges on the relevance of the coach’s meaning-making to coaching outcomes and processes. The purpose of this study was to explore how seven developmental leadership coaches, including the researcher, could evolve their consciousness, capacities and skills using action inquiry. Seven meetings were held, and knowledge and development were generated through ongoing self- and mutual inquiry among individual co-inquirers, and with the whole system of participants. The context of the global COVID-19 pandemic and of systemic racism profoundly marked the experience and the learnings of the co-inquirers.

Data were collected through video-recording of the meetings, post-meeting questionnaires, e-mail exchanges among co-inquirers, analytical memos, and individual post-co-inquiry interviews with each participant. Also, each co-inquirer’s meaning-making was assessed through the Leadership Maturity Assessment Profile. Data analysis was based on coding and inductive categorization of the emerging themes.

Findings demonstrated individual and collective developmental movements that emerged throughout the study. Key learnings included the potential of action inquiry as a methodology supporting growth through disruption. Growth was evident for each co-inquirer as a whole self, as a self in relationship with others, and as part of the Whole. This was conducive to expanded capacity for presence, integration, and (personal, mutual and systemic) regeneration. At the group level, the following factors emerged as impacting growth: (1) intentionality, (2) open and secure container, (3) leadership as hosting, (4) co-leadership, and (5) the space between and beyond. Three meta-insights about the expansion of consciousness through disruption highlighted the importance of dwelling within the lived experience of systemic complexity, growing together with others, and re-training unitive consciousness across the developmental spectrum.

This study contributes to the understanding of developmental leadership coaching, and to the theory and practice of action inquiry as a method for personal, mutual and systemic growth across disruptions.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies