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Leading across cultural borders: a communitarian approach to global development

Malcolm Elliott Glover (Department of Leadership Studies, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas, USA)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore the community development experiences of a communitarian leader who has worked with various global institutions. Through interviews and the examination of lived experiences, findings yield new insights into the complexity of human identity and the flexibility of decision making in a multicultural setting. The narrative also aims to inform current discourse on leadership in the non-profit sector.


Narrative analysis was used to investigate outcomes and relay the personal anecdotes of the interview participant. Formal and open-ended questioning generated comprehensive responses concerning the participant’s personal and professional interactions while completing work-related tasks for global development projects. In general, questions that referenced conflict among colleagues, cultural proclivities, and gendered decision making allowed the participant to expound on answers that explored workplace relationships, organizational structures, and leadership perspectives. Interview responses were examined for emergent patterns or categories and detailed analysis of codes from interviews guided the creation of four key themes: feminine ethos, organizational identity, self-perception, and sociocultural interaction.


The narrative delves into the important human and humanitarian experiences that have shaped the professional life of Dr Thomas Bruce, an exemplar of leadership in the global non-profit sector. Bruce, a self-described communitarian, served as Chairman of the Board of Directors at Heifer International and oversaw community outreach initiatives in South Africa for the Kellogg Foundation. Based on Bruce’s knowledge, expertise, and responses, findings suggest global leaders take a multidimensional approach to colleague interaction and project completion. Narrative outcomes also indicate the evolving nature of grassroots initiatives requires both assertive and cooperative management styles.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the chosen research method, findings focus on the experiences of one global non-profit leader. Narrative outcomes are unique and may not have the requisite data to be applied to cases or situations beyond the global non-profit sector. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to interview other leaders who have worked on global humanitarian initiatives to further understand their diverse experiences.

Practical implications

The narrative includes practical implications for practitioners who oversee global development projects and other humanitarian initiatives in an interdependent world. Use of compromise, collaboration, and compassion often aid community outreach efforts and strengthen communication in the workplace, particularly for leaders who manage a multicultural workforce.

Social implications

In an interdependent world shaped by the forces of globalization and cosmopolitanism, leaders of global non-profit organizations regularly manage a multicultural workforce and resolve public disputes in order to address prevailing humanitarian challenges. Understanding the lessons learned by one exemplar in the global non-profit sector can aid cross-cultural communication and enhance community development activities in various countries.


This narrative fills an identified need to study and understand how global leaders work with diverse communities and a multicultural workforce to complete important institutional and humanitarian goals.



The author would like to thank Dr Thomas Bruce for his willingness to participate in thorough interviews that explored various aspects of the author’s personal and professional life.


Glover, M.E. (2016), "Leading across cultural borders: a communitarian approach to global development", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 154-166.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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