Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Third Advisor

Hinsdale Bernard


Problem. This study concerns three matters: the leader formation process in general, servant leadership formation in particular, and the application to crossing cultures, with China as the primary context. The central problem of this study revolves around leader formation . What events, experiences, people and other formative processes contributed as critical to the formation of exemplary Christian leaders in China?

Method. The design of this research was a narrative, qualitative study that explored the central phenomenon of leader formation. The researcher was the instrument to collect data through in-depth interviews. This study purposefully selected three exemplary Christian Chinese leaders. The participants were asked to share their life stories by recounting the significant formative processes. This questioning was done inductively by asking broad, general questions, without bringing preconceived notions to bear. Participant selection included people of different ages in order to describe from multiple perspectives what was formative in the past as well as the present. The differences between the participants provided sufficient coverage so that their combined stories elicited common themes.

Results . J. Robert Clinton's Leadership Emergence Theory was the theoretical framework for assessing leader formation. The research concluded that leader formation among Chinese Christian leaders occurred mostly through nonformal or informal education, with mentoring and modeling playing a significant role. Of the several process items considered, suffering (internal and external) came across as the most significant life-shaping experience. Formation of being overshadowed formation of knowing and doing. China is changing dramatically, and future leader formation must prepare people to grow holistically while serving the complex challenges of society.

Conclusions. The exemplary Chinese leader embodies honorable qualities and has undergone challenging developmental processes. Chinese culture and worldview have shaped this person's life, as in every culture. However, the exemplary Christian Chinese leader has been subject to formative processes that are sometimes unique and often distinct from what is considered normative leadership development elsewhere. Suggestions toward a universal leadership model were presented. Leader formation globally can learn much from understanding the qualities and developmental processes critical to the formation of the exemplary Chinese leader.

Subject Area

Servant leadership--China, Christian leadership--China, Leadership--China

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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