Black Male Leaders' Paths to Success in Counseling: A Qualitative Study

Megan Smith (2010)

In today's multicultural society, minority leadership in all fields is important to represent ever-growing diversity. This study explored resilience and the paths to leadership of African American males in a mental health field. A review of the literature provided examples of impediments and the factors that contribute to success for African Americans in educational and organizational settings and cultural strengths and leadership characteristics of African Americans. The Consensual Qualitative Research method (CQR; Hill et al., 2005; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997) was employed to analyze archived interview data with 5 African American male past-presidents of a national counseling organization's racial and ethnic minority division that is devoted to multiculturalism. Interpretations of the results, which were 10 domains or overarching topics in the interviewee data and 42 categories or themes across cases, included the following: (a) a communal/collectivistic worldview permeated the actions of the leaders; (b) the leaders were deeply affected by historical/sociopolitical events; (c) the leaders have a wide variety of traits and external resources that promote resilience; (d) the leaders' awareness of the world around them and their actions in the world are impacted by the color of their skin; and (e) theleaders' discussion of leadership styles and their accomplishments reflected their use of a mix of leadership frames (Bolman & Deal, 2003). On the basis of the interview protocol and the literature, research questions were posed that revealed commonalities and uniqueness in the paths these men took to becoming counselors and multiculturalists and in their self-reported leadership strengths. Commonalities included having a role model or mentor, a communal worldview, and employing structural leadership. Additionally, the analysis revealed that the interviewees share many characteristics of leaders according to the preeminent leadership scholar, Warren Bennis (2009), as well as those found in studies looking only at African Americans (e.g., Charleston, 2001; Ivy, 2006). The findings provided insights into thepaths by which these past-presidents came to their divisional leadership and useful information for the development of future minority leaders in mental health.