Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Transformational Leadership Journeys of Transnational Individuals: A Study of Belizean Leaders

Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Transformational Leadership Journeys of Transnational Individuals: A Study of Belizean Leaders

Article excerpt


Built upon a framework of leadership theory and transformative learning, this paper reveals results from interviews of women higher education leaders conducted in November of 2010. The eight women from across Belize related their leadership journeys, their understanding of mentoring needs, and significant events which informed their leadership careers. Surprising results emerged and demonstrated the issues of transnational adults, international gender differences, and leadership journeys.

[Keywords] Transformational leadership; mentoring; cross-cultural understanding in adult education; gender differences in leadership


Women professionals continue to encounter a "glass ceiling" in many variations within and beyond the workplace around the globe (Ng, & Chakrabarty, 2005; Robbins et al., 2009). Furthermore, sociologists and anthropologists demonstrate that, internationally, there are many extremely different cultural orientations towards gender and the professions. For instance, Finland has been a leader in women's rights: women's right to vote passed in 1906 (Adams, 2009; Kuusipalo, 1999; Pylkkänen, 1999). Meanwhile, United States, Canada, and Europe have been slower to adopt, even as late as post World War Π (Harris, 2009; Pylkkänen). Moreover, advances in Central America, South America (Rai, & Critzer, 2000), Africa (Robbins et al.) and Asia (Budhwar, Saini, & Bhatnagar, 2006; Ng, & Chakrabarty) have been slower still.

Within higher education, academic and administrative leadership in the USA, there is a trend of greater female presence on boards and executive leadership after many years of only middle management advancement (Cooper, 2007; Harris, 2009). Moreover, a review of related journals and conferences reveals that leadership strategies for women is a popular topic.

While the literature abounds with leadership theories, transaction and transformational leadership models have endured (Monaghan, 2010). The model of transformational leadership recognizes how some leaders focus on cultivating their vision in an organization through the development of the staff, thus transforming people and organizations. Distinct from this model is the adult learning theory of transformative learning (also known as transformational learning), which describes how adults grow and change through negotiating cognitive dissonance and developing new perspective frames (Mezirow, 1978). The research questions of this study integrate the issues of transformational leadership and learning to reveal how leaders transform and also engage in transforming their organizations and followers

The first research study unexpectedly revealed that among women higher education leaders in Belize, they were almost all transnational in that they lived in more than one country. In an increasingly global society, there are and will continue to be more leaders experiencing transnational lives (Lee & Shaw, 2011; Nowicka, 2006). Therefore, the analysis of these participants' experiences can be very informative for our understanding of the transformative developments of leadership and leadership learning.

This paper explores several critical questions about these international transnational women leaders' experiences to understand better the development and learning process, needed support, and leadership journeys. This study has great potential to reveal not only how women in leadership cope with the distinct cultural and national issues relevant to their nations, but also eventually provide the foundation for a meta-analysis across the participating nations. By revealing similarities and differences in process, opportunities and barriers, and expectations we will be able to better prepare programs, develop mutual local and international understanding, and form global collaborations.

Theoretical Background

Transnational Literature

This research study addresses issues of not only the development of transnational leaders, but also of transnational women leaders. …

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