Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary Jo Abascal-Hildebrand, EdD, Chairperson; Susan M. Zgliczynski, PhD; Ellen Colangelo, PhD


Altruism, civic praxis, global ethics, Leadership studies, Phenomenology, social compassion, universal ethical consciousness


In recent decades there has been an increasing interest in the ethical dimensions of leadership. James MacGregor Burns' (1978) watershed work, Leadership, heralds an intellectual breakthrough for grasping the significance of a moral level of consciousness that is universal. Although Burns (1978) writes that humanistic psychology now allows for generalization about leadership process across cultures, there remains little research which frames leadership in a Global Ethic, in humanistic psychological constructs or as philosophical ideas of a universal ethical consciousness. Therefore, it is the purpose of this phenomenological study to gather and analyze narratives of altruistic leadership praxis for disclosures of common higher callings to social compassion from what appears to be an ethical consciousness that is universal. What is a universal ethical consciousness? Are there calls from a universal ethical consciousness to social compassion? Does civic leadership manifest a universal ethical consciousness philosophically, psychologically, and in a Global Ethic? May a phenomenological methodology allow for the examination of a universal ethical consciousness? These questions create the boundaries for this study as a presentation of a dialectical discourse concerning the nature of a universal ethical consciousness and its apparent manifestation in a Global Ethic, humanistic psychology, and in moral leadership praxis. As such, this phenomenological study presents the narratives of six counselors who lead week-end retreats for youth to confront prejudice, bigotry, and racism for the purpose of building and nurturing pluralism. Because this research is a narrative study, it is essentially a study of language. It assumes that language is not to be understood as an instrument or as a tool, but rather it is to be viewed phenomenologically as the medium in which we live. Language as narrative in this study demonstrates that it reaches beyond presentation to disclose consciousness of the speakers and writers. These narratives reflect the ultimate existential task of human beings, according to Fromm (1969), which is to fulfill individual autonomy through engagements in ethical praxis. The essence of this idea is disclosed in the process of recounting these narratives. The six informants display historical accounts of a universal ethical consciousness reflected in their altruistic leadership praxis with youth at week-end retreats for building harmony in community. In conclusion, these narratives disclose a universal ethical consciousness constituent in human nature which mediates self unity and social unity through civic praxis. A broader understanding of a universal ethical consciousness may have implications for exploring, energizing, and encouraging sharing all the processes of our becoming fully human in myriad social relationships.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access