Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Zachary Gabriel Green, Ph.D., Committee Chair; Cheryl A. Getz, Ed.D.; Lea A. Hubbard, Ph.D.


Developmental Networks, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mentoring, Minorities, Professionals of Color


As the workplace becomes more global, interdependent, and complex, the nature of mentoring has evolved. What was once thought of classically as the relationship between a mentor and her protégé has become increasingly characterized by multiple developers functioning as a network of support and guidance. Such developmental networks are composed of diverse relationships, with all reflecting different facets of formal and informal mentoring.

This dissertation explores how developmental networks of professionals of color support their leadership development by applying a mutuality perspective that incorporates the lived experiences of protégés and developers. The research questions guiding this exploratory study are: 1) In what ways do developers and protégés co-create a holding environment, or safe space, for the leadership development of the protégé? 2) What aspects of leadership do developers and protégés learn from one another? 3) What perceived impact do racial and ethnic identities have on the interactions between developers and protégés? In addition to using questionnaires to understand the structure of protégés’ leadership developmental networks, critical incident technique was embedded within the case study method to examine the dynamics of this phenomenon as a holding environment, or safe space, for protégés to address leadership challenges. Moreover, it examines the individual, relational, and collective processes between protégés and developers and how their racial and ethnic identities may influence these processes.

The findings and themes from participants’ interviews suggest that developers’ behaviors within these developmental networks can create a safe space for protégés’ leadership development. Developmental relationships offer opportunities for mutual learning and building of social capital between protégés and developers. In addition, social identities such as race and ethnicity, can act as a boundary as well as a connector between protégés and developers.

This research contributes to our understanding of leadership developmental networks at multiple levels of analysis in a time when more relational and collective forms of leadership is needed. This study has implications for protégés and developers regarding the value of cultivating developmental relationships, and for organizations and developmental programs, which can encourage and facilitate a culture of development to support such networks.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only


Leadership Studies