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Leadership (API)phanies: A Comparative Case Study of Asian/Pacific Islander Women Developing Leadership Identities


Leadership skills continue to be a priority for the economy, therefore it is imperative for colleges and universities to meet this demand by developing leadership skills in their students. Although concepts of leadership have been explored throughout student development literature, there remains a lack of research on the process by which an undergraduate student develops a leadership identity. The Leadership Identity Development (LID) model was created using grounded theory research to provide guidance on this development process. Various studies have used the LID model as a theoretical framework to explore the leadership identity development of specific populations of undergraduate students including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students and Hispanic female students. Asian/Pacific Islanders (API) are the second fastest growing racial population in the United States and most reside in California, however, less than 1% of research articles in the most popular peer-reviewed journals of higher education pertain to API students, few of those pertaining to API leadership. This comparative case study utilized the LID model to better understand the leadership identity development of twenty API undergraduate female students in Southern California. Data analysis of the qualitative interviews revealed the women experienced leadership identity development trajectories that followed the progressive stages of the LID model. The influences of the participants’ Inner Circles, Outer Circles, and Environmental Circles were critical to their leadership development. Additionally, the women developed personal styles of leadership that emphasized advocacy, care, and service, further proving that API women develop leadership identities in unique ways.

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