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Healers and helpers, unifying the people: A qualitative study of Lakota leadership

Kem M Gambrell, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this critical grounded theory qualitative study was to explore Lakota Leadership from a Native perspective. Interviews were conducted with enrolled members of a Lakota tribe in an urban setting as well as on the Rosebud reservation to gain better awareness of leadership through a non-mainstream viewpoint. Previously, in order to understand leaders and followers, research limited its scope of discernment to dominant society, implying that non-mainstream individuals will acquiesce, or that differences found are inconsequential. Leadership scholars also have implied that leadership theory is “universal enough”, and can be applied globally regardless of influences such as race, gender or culture. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to bridge the gap between what is known in the leadership field with non-dominant society perspectives. ^ Participants shared their perceptions of Lakota leadership and the characteristics, qualities, and traits that were needed to be successful leaders. Additionally, participants shared their perspectives of what the Lakota tribe needs in its leaders to continue building as a nation. From the data, six major categories emerged: Traditional Values and Behaviors, Putting Others First, Leadership Qualities, The Red Road, Nation Building, and Barriers. In addition, five minor categories also surfaced: Men as Leaders, Women as Leaders, and Fallen Leaders, from the category Leadership Qualities, and “Real” Native and Bi-cultural, from Nation Building. ^ Findings determined that Lakota leadership is not completely defined or explained by current leadership theory. While aspects of Lakota and leadership theory may be similar in some dimensions, there is not a strong association to mainstream theories. Therefore, the findings from this study indicate that researchers should broaden the contextual aspects of their research to include non-mainstream cultures to adequately characterize leadership. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Management|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Native American Studies

Recommended Citation

Gambrell, Kem M, "Healers and helpers, unifying the people: A qualitative study of Lakota leadership" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3359828.