An Exploration of the Influence of Childhood Experiences on Servant Leadership Behaviors

Date of Award





Doctor of Education


Counseling, Foundations & Leadership


A long standing debate among leadership scholars is whether leadership can be taught and learned. The researcher’s experience, recognition that it is difficult to change behavior in adults, and limited leadership development research on early influences led the researcher to explore the influences of childhood experiences on servant leadership behaviors. A narrative research design was used, exploring the childhood experiences of participants through semi-structured interviews, followed by an interview of a family member. Two research questions guided the study:

Research Question 1: What are participants’ perceptions of how specific childhood experiences have influenced their servant leadership behaviors?

Research Question 2: What similarities and differences can be found related to childhood experiences influencing servant leadership behaviors among all of the participants?

Five themes were found through data analysis: family life, church involvement, mentors/role models, accountability, and group activities. And, all five themes point to an individual or individuals who were an influence, whether it was a parent, coach, teacher, sibling, extended family member, or other individual. Exposure to role models may be through the home, school, sports, church, or other activities.

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