Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

First Advisor

Dr. Charles M. Galloway

Second Advisor

Dr. Elinor A. Scheirer

Third Advisor

Dr. Henry Thomas


This study was grounded in the theory and practice of transformational leadership, where leaders function as moral agents of change as they facilitate values talk (moral discourse) among their constituents. The study took its cue from Rost's call for a new paradigm for leadership ethics that calls for methods of group moral decision making to assess organizational and social ends. The inquiry sought to better understand how leaders engage others in moral conversation and how such processes influence organizational culture and democratic civil society.

The methodology was qualitative and phenomenological as it was centered on leaders' perceptions of their experiences in diverse organizational settings across public, private, and social sectors. Data was collected through focus groups and individual interviews and analyzed through the constant comparative method. Data was also interpreted within the socio-political context of a communitarian worldview that postures moral discourse as a means to identify shared values that build social capital and sustain the common good. Other theoretical contexts draw from discourse ethics, adult critical pedagogy, and moral development.

The findings of the study put forth a typology of moral discourse framed in categories that include: conversational venues, individual and social impediments to the conversation, communicative dynamics that stimulate the conversation, speech actions, speech styles, functions of moral discourse, and specific leader practices that advance the conversation. Implications for practice in the workplace are framed in areas of organizational development and business ethics. Other implications are considered for the practice of democratic deliberation.

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