Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy
shame, leadership, personal growth, connection, contemplation, isolation
Leadership Studies | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Williamson, Matthew James, "A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study Exploring Leadership Efficacy: Understanding the Impact of Shame in Christian Leaders" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4616.
This hermeneutic phenomenological study explored the Christian leader’s experience of shame within organizations and its impact on their leadership efficacy. For this study, shame is defined as a deep sense of internal, negative pressure that typically elicits a subconscious desire to suppress or deflect. Since every organizational leadership role has a degree of accountability, emotional risk is potentially present in all negotiable interactions. This paper investigated the social/cultural encouragement of shame and potential avoidance of shame when emotional risk and failure are perceived. Brené Brown’s (2006) Shame Resilience Theory inspired this study. This theory is aligned with the purpose of this study, as Christian leadership must face shame to develop healthy, Christ-like relationships, which demand internal growth. This study leveraged Alsaigh’s and Coyne’s (2021) Framework for Hermeneutic Phenomenology Research to guide the methodology through a three-stage interview process and participant journaling. Thematic analysis revealed that participants experience shame dynamics within the organization in physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual ways causing significant taxation on a leader’s bandwidth. This taxation often results in cyclical instigation and perpetuation of shame until broken by contemplation. Also, the analysis revealed that Christian leaders are responsible for interpreting and appropriately responding within their community by declaring and demonstrating shared values, developing an acute sense of reconciling differentiating worldviews, and remaining hyper-vigilant to the needs of their followers, encouraging the cultivation and growth of their entire community.