Open Access

Storying family experiences in higher education: Surfacing, awakening, and transforming developing leader identity


Storying family experiences provides a means to explore and support leader identity development. The idea of recalling and reflecting on stories about and from families can surface how orientations to lead are learned early on in life. We report on students’ narratives generated during a postgraduate early childhood education leadership course to understand the significance of family storytelling in leader identity development and the awakenings this process encouraged for those involved. Using McCain and Matkin’s (2019) concept of retrospective storytelling, narrative inquiry underpinned our analysis of students’ family-oriented stories and the identification of two themes regarding their orientation to leadership: the influence of families’ hardships, work ethic and selfless actions; and the expectations associated with being the first-born in the family and the assumed responsibilities. Our findings affirm the transformative potential of selecting, telling, and reflecting on family stories to both understand the roots of leadership motivations and develop leader identities. Implications include promoting a narrative-based pedagogy for leadership development that centres on postgraduate students’ retrospective storying of family experiences.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Education, other