Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



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: Interdepartmental Area of Nutrition. Under the Supervision of Professor Nancy M. Lewis.
Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Anne Marie Bigley Hunter


This study investigated leadership development of Registered Dietitians in nationally elected or appointed leadership positions of the American Dietetic Association. An explanatory sequential mixed method design: participant selection model was used collecting qualitative data after a quantitative phase. Demographic data were collected via a mailed survey questionnaire followed by, with consent, a web based validated Sentence Completion Test International- Maturity Assessment Profile Research Version (2) (SCTi- MAP) to determine their stage of leadership development. Of the 97 participants, 86% (n=83) responded to the survey questionnaire with 92% (n=79) rating the importance of dietitians being leaders as very important; 100% (n=83) believed that leadership ability can be developed; 70% (n=66) did not think that learning about leadership through education and training was sufficient to help people transform into leaders; 78% (n=65) believed that leadership is related to seeing the world through new eyes; 99% (n=82) think that there are stages of developmental growth in leadership, and 96% (n=80) think that leadership maturity evolves over time. Forty-six of the original 97 subjects completed the SCTi-MAP with a response rate of 47%. Of the 46, 87% (n=40) were identified at the Conventional level with 26% (n=12) at the Expert Action Logic, Stage 3/4 and 61% (n=28) at the Achiever Action Logic, Stage 4, and 13% (n=6) were identified at the Post Conventional Individualist Action Logic, Stage 4/5 of development. Twenty-five participants who completed the SCTI-MAP agreed to participate in the qualitative phase of the study to determine the process/model of leadership. The model was based on semi-structured, audio recorded, transcribed telephone interviews where participants described their experience of leadership. Transcripts were open coded for categories, sub-categories and dimensions. The six categories identified were: “getting hooked,” born/made, mentoring, horizontal development, personal growth and “from fear to freedom.” Categories were then collapsed into a taxonomy of leadership development in the axial coding paradigm which distinguished the central phenomenon as: mentoring as the segue to leadership. The model hypothesizes the sequential unfolding of the leadership development process, and positions it for validation and further study.