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Crucibles, ‘Surthrival’ and Business Leadership

July 28, 2014
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Steve Hinge PhD
School of Business
e shinge@eit.ac.nz

Dr Steve Hinge’s research for his PhD in Business Administration from Southern Cross University (Australia) is based around the concept of a crucible.

This concept is taken from the medieval meaning, describing a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures. In the modern context, Steve draws on another Oxford Dictionary definition of crucible, meaning a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.

Steve’s research conceptualised crucibles as experiences of extraordinary circumstances, the main ones being the death of someone close, divorce, trauma in the family or  stress related to employment – the types of experiences that can force a person to question who they are or what is important to them. Steve asked the question, how do ‘crucible’ experiences influence business leadership capability?

Twenty Northland business leaders volunteered to participate in Steve’s research after he made presentations to meetings of Rotary International & HRINZ (Human Resources Institute of New Zealand). All these interview subjects met the criteria of having had what could be defined as a crucible experience. Steve set to find out if this experience affected their calling to leadership roles, the characteristics they brought to leadership roles and the competence with which they fulfilled the roles.

He found that crucible experiences significantly developed these Northland leaders in several key ways. Firstly, crucibles could influence the leaders’ calling to serve others or make them more aware of their leadership calling in life.

Secondly, they could influence the leaders’ character in terms of their drive to be the best at whatever they did or how they behaved in their relationships with others. Thirdly, crucible experiences could influence leaders to draw on their own aptitudes and skills or from external resources to strengthen their leadership competence.

Perhaps most significant of Steve’s findings was the leaders’ will to survive their ordeals – some even thrived because of them. This led Steve to coin the term ‘surthrive’ to describe the concept of an experiential learning process, showing how crucibles can influence leadership roles and the development of leadership capability.

Dr Hinge plans to extend his research, inviting business leaders in the Gisborne region to participate in a ‘Surthrive Leadership Development’ programme designed to contribute to the well-being of leaders and society.