In order to better understand what happens when leaders put themselves in a posture that allows them to be influenced by the people they lead, this qualitative study explores the experience of American evangelical Christian missionaries engaged in leadership among people of other cultures. A review of the leadership literature shows how this theme has been examined within several domains of leadership studies. The field of missiology offers additional perspectives to the process of leadership among people of diverse cultures.
The research employs a phenomenological approach to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of intercultural leadership. Eight evangelical Christian missionaries from the United States were interviewed using a protocol designed to identify critical incidents in their experiences in leading people of cultures different from their own. The core findings are written descriptions of key experiences of these leaders that focus upon ways they were influenced by those they lead.
The lived experience of the missionary leaders in this study informs prevalent leadership theories including transformative leadership, servant leadership, and cross-cultural leadership. This study demonstrates and expounds upon the value of relational transparency and cross- cultural servanthood for the intercultural leadership process.
KEY WORDS: INTERCULTURAL LEADERSHIP, SERVANTHOOD, VULNERABILITY, TRUST, MISSIOLOGY, AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP, SERVANT LEADERSHIP, TEAM LEADERSHIP, PHENOMENOLOGY