Date of Award

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Third Advisor

Lionel Matthews

Abstract

Problem. The question guiding my dissertation research was: In what ways do the writings of Wendell Berry, reflecting his sociological imagination, address and advance leadership theory with specific regard for the issue of agrarian values?

Method. I used the writings of Wendell Berry as a modified case study for my inductive, theoretical, exploratory research in a qualitative vein. As I reviewed his writings, I identified his moral ideology and extracted his value-set. Along the way, I observed Berry's use of a method promoted by C. Wright Mills in his book The Sociological Imagination (1959). Since sociological imagination finds its use within the value conflicts of social life, Berry's insights are instructive for those in business leadership. Such leaders face frequent value conflicts that have, for example, relational, economic, and moral implications. Furthermore, I have taken validation from the sociology of literature. Though not found in standard textbooks, the legitimacy of this approach is intact. I kept it in mind while studying Berry's writings. I also placed his work against the literature on leadership and business in order to challenge assumptions found there. Finally, my exploration took me into multi-disciplinary terrain. This required a method that combined intuitive reading with good record keeping inorder to identify, consider, and confirm cross-disciplinary connections.

Conclusions. I synthesized a series of descriptive phrases for good leaders--those more committed to being virtuous than to being profitable. The good leader "gets it right," demonstrates "foresight," and sees society through the grid of the sociological imagination. The good leader understands a good economy is shaped primarily by the ideas of health and stewardship, not profit and exploitation. The good leader rethinks his/her values with a concern for a sustainable world. The good leader manages with care and honesty by walking farther into the places, communities, and sources of both nutrition and materials. The good leader equips workers to see the social milieu for what it is, empowers them for independent and interdependent work, and eagerly guides them in the way of moral virtue.

Subject Area

Agriculture--Social aspects, Leadership, Berry, Wendell, 1934- --Views on leadership, Berry, Wendell, 1934- --Views on values

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