Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Adult Education

Committee Chair

Mitsunori Misawa

Committee Member

Larry McNeal

Committee Member

Charisse Gulosino

Committee Member

Charles Coker


This grounded theory study sought to understand how leadership as a constructed concept develops in adult students engaged in learning a martial art, taekwondo. This was accomplished through a qualitative case study using the methods of data collection and analysis, specifically in-depth, semi-structured interviews, document and textual reviews, and field observations. The interviews were conducted with adult students at Yesha Ministries in Atoka, TN. Yesha Ministries is a non-profit, non-commercial accredited taekwondo dojang. The interviews were related to the perceptions and understanding of leadership and how taekwondo had affected the lives of adult students. The purpose of this student was to understand how taekwondo contributes to the holistic development of leaders and specifically development of servant leaders. Three themes emerged from the data that provided a theory on servant leader development from learning taekwondo; Authenticity, Identity, and Relationships. Learning taekwondo, adults progress through a developmental process where they explore fears, loss, challenges, conflicts and spiritual growth to find an authentic self; identify with a leader or follower paradigm and identify with the act of leading through service to others; and finally the process requires them to develop multiple roles and relationships through mentorships, friendships, and other roles. Studying servant leadership development in a non-commercial taekwondo program has added to the leadership discourse on how leaders develop cognitively, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This study has implications for leader development research centered on understanding how leaders develop andin what environments are best suited to develop leaders. Spirituality and context are crucial to the pursuit of understanding this developmental process. Conclusions from this study indicate that research into servant leadership has great potential for the adult learning field as corporations, politics, social organizations, and higher education have a vested interest in future leaders who are knowledgeable, effective and ethical. The plethora of leadership theories that focus solely on characteristics or trait leadership are missing a large part of the leadership force. By expanding our own view of what is a leader and considering servant leaders as a vital and equivalent source of information, our understanding of leadership and leader development can only be improved.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.