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Hinge, SG 2013, 'Crucible influences on leadership : reflections on Northland community leaders "surthrival" experiences', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright SG Hinge 2013


This thesis examines the influence of crucibles on the development of leadership capability. To do this, it analyses and interprets relevant comments relating to how Northland community leaders’ calling, character and competence developed, through surviving and thriving (Surthriving) overwhelming ordeals in their lives. This thesis did not set out to prove or challenge extant leadership and experiential learning theories or leadership praxis. It simply asked "How do crucibles influence Northland community leaders’ calling, character, and competence?"

With this end in mind, the writer undertook phenomenological research to interview 20 community leaders living in Northland, a low socio-economic region in New Zealand. Interview data was analysed and interpreted using a mixed research methodology to identify themes of how leadership capability develops through experientially learning from crucibles. Interpretation of these themes produced interesting findings.

First, crucibles usually influenced research respondents’ calling to either serve others or become more self-aware of their own leadership calling in life. Second, crucibles usually influenced respondents’ character to either be the best at whatever they did, or influenced how they behaved in their relationships with people. Third, crucibles usually influenced respondents’ leadership competence to either draw from their own aptitudes and skills, or from external resources to strengthen their leadership competence. Fourth, respondents’ self-awareness and communication with people was the attribute most frequently influenced by crucibles on leadership calling, character, and competence. Fifth, crucibles influenced respondents’ leadership calling, character, or competence and the relationships between these elements in an interdependent manner.

The research showed crucibles triggered significant personal insights that encouraged respondents to perceive their problems more as personal development opportunities than as insurmountable obstacles. The sixth and perhaps most significant finding is that crucibles influenced all respondents’ will to survive their ordeals, whilst some even thrived because of them. The most common crucibles involved family relationships, job and, death which were unpredictably forced upon them.

These themes led the writer to develop the Surthrive concept, which is an experiential learning process that shows how crucibles influence leaders to reflectively think about their calling in life, character, and competence by reflecting on their crucibles. The writer hopes the Surthrive concept will provide an effective approach for developing leadership capability in rapidly changing circumstances and positively benefit society throughout the 21st century and beyond.