Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication Department


"I Will Be the Leader": Leader Emergence as an Adaptive Response Among MENA Refugee and Immigrant Women in the U.S.

Tiffani Luethke, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Document Type Article

A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences (Leadership Studies), Under the Supervision of Professor Gina S. Matkin. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2019

Copyright 2019 Tiffani N. Luethke


The findings of this research provide important implications for leader emergence as an adaptive response to traumatic experiences. Additionally, improvements for workforce transition of MENA refugee and immigrant women are discussed through understanding the impact of cultural context as well as facets which provide a means toward empowerment. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to investigate the leadership patterns that existed within a culture-sharing community of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) refugee and immigrant women who resettled in the Midwestern United States. Limited exploration has sought to understand the existing knowledge and the practice of leadership within such communities. Through an ethnographic approach over three years, this study involved immersive observation, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with seven key informants. Primary sources of data included fieldnotes from three focus group discussions and transcripts from nearly 36 hours of interviews that were analyzed through first cycle eclectic coding and second cycle pattern coding. Fieldnotes and reflective memos served as supporting sources of data that contributed to the development of a rich context and deeper understanding of the emerging themes. Through the development of supporting concepts and subthemes, five major themes emerged, including (1) cultural context, (2) powerlessness, (3) empowerment, (4) unethical leadership, and (5) ethical leadership. These themes contributed to the development of a model that helped explain the process of leader emergence within this community which appeared to be an adaptive response to trauma. Drawing on psychological literature about the concepts of tend-and-befriend and posttraumatic growth as responses to stress and life crises, leader emergence may provide use beyond the present research for other populations who have experienced trauma.

Advisor: Gina S. Matkin