Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Janine Lim

Second Advisor

Bordes Henry-Saturne

Third Advisor

Michelle Loyd-Paige


Leadership is part and parcel of societies and cultures. Leadership research can provide understanding that in turn provides knowledge, resources and growth opportunities for leaders. Leadership may be understood from a personal perspective as being bound up with identity. As I examine myself as a person and as a leader, I realize that several identities are prominent: Black male identity, Christian identity, jazz avant-garde artistic identity. Each of those identities have features that contribute to leadership.

The purpose of this study is to describe and explore leadership experiences of a Black male, from the Seventh-day Adventist Christian tradition who is a musical artist in the jazz avant-garde. The research is submitted for improvement of my own leadership and to contribute to the field of leadership. In particular, this study seeks to resonate and amplify voices of Black leaders by employing creative methods to understand practice in the contexts of society and culture.

The methodological frame for the study is qualitative. More specifically, I use autoethnography to facilitate personal narrative inquiry into leadership and identities in social contexts. The study examines multifaceted, intersecting identities through layered accounts of my experience, poetry, and music. This research represents the complexities of identity in culture in ways that are at the same time personally reflexive and accessible for wider audiences, especially those that might otherwise see themselves as undervalued, if not devalued, in traditional academic discourses.

The findings are artistic articulations and performances that serve as a reflective chamber for self examination and leadership growth. Those articulations are invitations to reflexive scholarship in broad terms and specifically for leaders. Leaders can find in this study creative research methods and ways of thinking about identity and culture that prompt positive possibilities for leadership growth in education and in all fields.


Copyright 2023 Michael Gayle. All rights reserved.

Subject Area

Leadership; Black Americans--Biography; Seventh-day Adventist artists--Biography