Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL)




From the earliest phases of the development of human consciousness to the present day, it appears that death is what is most feared. Consequently, over vast periods of historical time, strategies to avoid death became increasingly sophisticated - from sacrificial rituals to complex symbolic structures created to transcend or forestall death's eventuality. The topics of death and dying have regularly mystified and engaged many of the world's most highly respected leaders, from scientists and healers to playwrights and poets; and their extensive observations - both in scope and depth - illuminate the fact that death and dying are an extremely rich resource for understanding and living a meaningful life. Seldom, though, is death recognized as a topic holding real and practical value for the study of leadership and powerful daily living. This paper proposes that leaders who do not pull back from what is feared about death and instead approach life with a whole awareness of the constancy of change and impermanence will provide a style of guidance which embodies wisdom, compassion and long-term vision that can transform lives and workplaces.

The research attempts to bring meaningful awareness to the concepts of death and dying and their relationship to leadership in two ways. An empirical study was conducted to measure twenty individuals'fear of death and their development of personal power (personal power being characterized by stages of an individual's ability to combine self-knowledge with action). Additionally, the subjects completed an open-ended interview consisting of fifteen questions. Results support the hypothesis that individuals who demonstrate higher stages of personal power increasingly have lesser fears surrounding mortality. Final speculations about the importance of responding to the fear of death are discussed in terms of the potential for understanding some of our individual, social and organizational problems more fully.


SC 11.MAL.2000.Johnson.A