Elizabeth Bishop Dissertation Final Defense

The College of Education, Health and

Human Sciences

Announces the Final Examination of

Elizabeth A. Bishop

for the degree of

Doctor of Education

July 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm

123 Ball Hall, University of Memphis

Memphis, TN


Biographical Sketch

Bachelor of Arts, Social Work, University of Memphis

Masters of Science in Social Work, Social Work, University of Tennessee

Advisory Committee

Mitsunori Misawa, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Leadership, Committee chair

Larry McNeal, Ph.D., Professor, Leadership

Charisse Gulosino, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Leadership

Charles Coker, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Leadership

Major Field of Study

Higher and Adult Education

Period of Preparation: 2009– 2015

Comprehensive Examination Passed: December/2013



Bishop, Elizabeth A., Ed.D. The University of Memphis, August, 2015. Adult leadership development and spirituality in martial arts: A grounded theory study on servant leadership in a non-commercial taekwondo dojang. Major Professor: Dr. Mitsunori Misawa.


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 interviewing, document and textual review, and field observations. The interviews were conducted with adult students at Yeshá Ministries in Atoka, TN. Yeshá 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 study 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 and in 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.

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