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The quiet voice within: A phenomenological study exploring ethnic minorities' experience on their leadership journey

Jane E Merliss, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Integral to building a positive workplace environment is the leader’s ability to grow supportive employee relationships and apply insightful strategies to achieve desired results. Leadership strategies, including use of power and influence, reflect a complex amalgam of professional experiences, practices, and personal culture. Much of the current scholarly literature examines the effect of workplace diversity through an organizational lens, focusing on the employee experience and the advantages and challenges of the diverse labor force to the organization. While some existing studies offer insight into specific populations of employees (Opsina & Foldy, 2009; Qiadan, Tziner, & Waismel-Manor, 2011), few have been directed at the way in which individual minority leaders experience their power and how this is exercised in their choice of influence strategies. Expanding on a previous pilot study, this study utilizes a phenomenological approach using a constructivist lens, incorporating how the life experiences of 13 minority leaders inform the leadership strategies and interpersonal employee interactions with those these leaders currently employ. The study applied Moustakas’ (1994) structured thematic procedures of data analysis of transcripts from semistructured interviews, resulting in four emergent themes, each reflecting a series of aligned concepts. Emergent themes of defining experiences and influences, connecting with their current self, connecting with employees/others, and connecting with their organizations were explored through the voices of the individual leaders. Findings from a pilot study provided the basis for this research study to further explore the development of inclusive workplaces.

Subject Area

Management|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Merliss, Jane E, "The quiet voice within: A phenomenological study exploring ethnic minorities' experience on their leadership journey" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3734079.