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Meers’ study is qualitative in nature. The purpose of his study was to explore how the selected leaders made sense of their experiences by understanding the context of the experiences themselves. It was imperative to the efficacy of his study to understand the perspectives of the leaders as they related their life experiences and what impact they saw these events having on their leadership development. As life experiences are best related in story format, it best served this study for the researcher to utilize personal interviews with participants as the primary method of data collection. The stories that leaders told about their formative life experiences cannot be broken down into easily manipulated variables, but rather must be understood as whole events that carry complex meanings for each individual. As Meers began his study, a theory was not presented for proving or dis-proving, however, in the process of data collection a theory did emerge. This is consistent with the qualitative approach and specifically the grounded theory method. Strauss and Corbin (1998) define grounded theory as: “theory that was derived from data, systematically gathered and analyzed through the research process” (pg. 12). The theoretical framework of how effective leaders learn from significant life experiences developed within this study matches this definition. The situation studied within this project was the significant life experiences of effective leaders with the process being leadership and the phenomenon being how these leaders learned from their respective significant experiences. The exploration of leaders’ life experiences moved from the specifics of each individual’s stories to generalizations that can be applied to the broader area of leadership development.


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