Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


The narrative journey of the conscious leader

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Chris Willis (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Deborah O'Neil (Other)

Third Advisor

Paul Johnson (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Joyce Litten (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Margaret Hopkins (Committee Member)


The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the developmental journeys of conscious leaders who were practicing the ethics-based philosophy of conscious capitalism. Emphasis was placed on investigating the turning points that occurred throughout leaders’ lives, and on outlining the developmental aspects used by these leaders to promote their internal development. Five senior executives in for-profit businesses, participated in two, one-on-one narrative interviews designed to identify details about their journeys to conscious leadership, and how they continuously developed as conscious leaders. Each of the participants took two assessments: one that tracked their career in life story and the major transition points, and a second that measured their emotional intelligence from a 360-degree perspective. Data from the interviews and assessments were used to answer two research questions designed to investigate why and how these leaders developed into conscious leaders and conscious capitalists. A delimitation of this study was that these leaders were practicing conscious leadership and conscious capitalism, thus it excluded executives who were conscious leaders but who were not practicing conscious capitalism. A limitation of this qualitative study was that the interviews consisted of self-reported memories of the participants’ experiences, therefore how the participants narrated those events may be different from what happened. Findings suggest that the participants are more likely to narrate their influential life turning points in a positive way, focusing on the meaning and lessons learned from those transitions, rather than on the difficulty of the transitional moment. Study findings also suggest that there is a framework of developmental perspectives, comprised of various behavioral aspects, that conscious leaders use to continually increase their levels of internal development: mindfulness (seeing), authenticity (presenting), and interpersonal ability (interacting). Further understanding of these leaders’ journeys, and how these mindsets and development perspectives might be replicated, adds value to the discussion on why the emerging constructs of conscious leadership and conscious capitalism may provide preferable strategic frameworks for business leaders operating in chaotic environments. Results provided insight on conscious leaders’ identity development, and offers direction on how business leaders can practice these development perspectives to drive increased personal and professional development.