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Liminal leadership: leading betwixt and between

Leslie Shaw-VanBuskirk (Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA)
Doo Hun Lim (Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA)
Shin-Hee Jeong (School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 26 June 2019

Issue publication date: 10 September 2019



The purpose of this study is to review the literature on liminal leadership, present a comprehensive perspective of it compared to other types of leadership, propose a conceptual framework of liminal leadership and provide a case on how liminal leadership addresses modern workplace issues in the ever-changing and competitive global environment.


This research is conceptual in nature. For this, the authors searched literature on organizational and leadership theories of liminality within organizational settings and analyzed various leadership perspectives to develop a construct of liminal leadership.


The comparative analysis revealed different and/or similar characteristics of liminal leadership with other types of leadership theories. On the basis of the comparative analysis, a synthesis of liminal leadership and a proposed conceptual framework to pursue future studies of liminal leadership are provided.

Research limitations/implications

First, the notion of liminal leadership is emerging; few have been conducted to investigate the concept. Therefore, the authors’ approach to compose the theoretical background of liminal leadership is limited. Second, they drew a logical framework of leadership components a liminal leader might use from chosen leadership theories which had some kinship and likeness to liminal leadership. However, the comparative analysis of the relationship is limited because of the conceptually based nature of analysis. Third, the proposed model of liminal leadership is tentative and conceptual in nature. Empirical studies are needed to verify the psychometric structure and reliability of the model.


Despite its importance and a sense of urgency, almost no discussion on liminal leadership or liminality can be found in the field of HRD. The limited knowledge associated with liminal leadership places high value on the results of this study. This paper will provide a seminal base that may stimulate future human resource development (HRD) scholars. The purpose for this study is to contribute a conceptualization of liminal leadership as it applies to the field of HRD as leading and facilitating organizational changes.



Shaw-VanBuskirk, L., Lim, D.H. and Jeong, S.-H. (2019), "Liminal leadership: leading betwixt and between", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 43 No. 7/8, pp. 643-660.



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