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The Leadership Quarterly


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/leaqua

Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of


current practices
Jane E. Stentz a,, Vicki L. Plano Clark b, Gina S. Matkin a
a
b

Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA


Department of Educational Studies, University of Cincinnati, USA

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 21 May 2012
Received in revised form 20 September 2012
Accepted 3 October 2012
Available online xxxx
Keywords:
Mixed methods
Quantitative
Qualitative
Leadership

a b s t r a c t
Leadership research has a long history of a quantitative approach, and it remains the most
commonly used approach among leadership researchers. Researchers in a variety of fields have
been applying mixed methods designs to their research as a way to advance theory. Mixed
methods designs are used for collecting, analyzing, and mixing both quantitative and
qualitative data in a single study or series of studies to both explain and explore specific
research questions. This article provides a review of the basic characteristics of mixed methods
designs. A broad series of leadership approaches is offered to help emphasize how the
application of mixed methods designs have already been applied and where they might be
directed in future research. Our review of articles published in the Leadership Quarterly
between 1990 and June 2012 revealed a slight occurrence of existing application of mixed
methods designs to leadership research. Of the articles reviewed, only 15 studies were found
to represent mixed methods research, according to our conceptual framework. The overall
intent of this article is to highlight the value of purposeful application of mixed methods
designs toward advancing leadership theory and/or theoretical thinking about leadership
phenomena.
2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Because the issues relating to leadership cut across all types of human activity and thought, true understanding of such a
complex phenomenon requires a broadly conceived approach. J. Thomas Wren, The Leader's Companion, 1995
The nature of leadership involves the exercise of influence (Yukl, 2006) and can be described as a complex, multi-faceted form
of performance that does not exist unless something happens (Mumford, 2011). It is the very nature of leadership as a complex,
multi-level, and socially constructed process (Gardner, Lowe, Moss, Mahoney, & Cogliser, 2010) that makes it a phenomenon of
great interest, but also one that is a challenge to study. These complexities can be embraced and celebrated as positive challenges
or grieved as overwhelming impossibilities. As Wren's use of the phrase a broadly conceived approach seems to imply, they
might be best addressed through something more than a single approach, such as the use of multiple theories and methodological
approaches; however, much of what is currently understood about leadership has been developed primarily through quantitative,
statistical approaches. Bass (2008) argues that methodological and substantive issues in leadership research are likely to broaden
by presenting the possibility of a new paradigm for leadership that combines the use of both objectivist and subjectivist views
toward better understanding of leadership as a complex phenomenon. Therefore, to best understand relevant leadership
processes and dynamics, the field of leadership research calls for the application of multiple research approaches.

Corresponding author at: Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 5600 S 82nd Street, Lincoln,
NE 68516, USA.
E-mail address: jstentz@neb.rr.com (J.E. Stentz).
1048-9843/$ see front matter 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

One way of using multiple research approaches to study leadership is through the application of mixed methods research that
integrates the collection and analysis of both quantitative numeric data and qualitative narrative data. Methodologists note that
by combining these two approaches within mixed methods research designs, researches can maximize the strengths of each
approach while making up for the weaknesses of the approaches, develop more complete and complementary understandings,
increase validity of results, use one form to build on the results of the other, and/or examine contextualized understandings,
multi-level perspectives, and cultural influences (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Creswell et al., 2011; Greene, Caracelli, & Graham,
1989; Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). That is, while quantitative approaches (such as surveys, correlational studies, or experiments)
provide opportunities for analyzing existing leadership approaches, combining them with qualitative approaches (such as
content analysis, case study, or grounded theory) can support new discoveries within the realm of existing leadership theory. An
example of such enhanced insights is the nine cultural dimensions developed by GLOBE researchers during their study of culture
and leadership (House, Javidan, & Dorfman, 2001). Although the GLOBE researchers used an overall quantitative approach for
purposes of scientific validity, they applied a mixed methods approach within their multi-phase, multi-method project by
embedding content analysis of interviews, focus groups, and published media (representing qualitative approaches) to capture
richly descriptive culture-specific interpretations to account for cultural influences on leadership (House et al., 2001). Northhouse
(2013) describes that through applying both quantitative and qualitative approaches, the GLOBE researchers were able to
uncover new understandings about cross-cultural interactions and how culture impacts leader effectiveness and in a way that is
generalizable between cultures and within cultures around the world. A purely quantitative approach may not have provided an
understanding rich in cultural context, and many leadership topics could benefit from researchers developing such contextualized
understandings.
Existing trends in leadership research reflect reliance on quantitative approaches (such as confirmatory factor analysis,
structural equation modeling, and multiple-levels analyses) with a more recent trend toward strategies for determining causal
relations between variables using experimental studies. The value in applying mixed methods to experimental studies can be
traced back to historical researchers like Campbell (1974) and Cronbach (1975) who called for the use of both quantitative and
qualitative data in experimental studies. It is the nature of complex leadership research problems that provides support for
extending beyond mere quantitative numbers or qualitative words. By combining these methods scholars can provide the most
complete analysis (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011) using experimental studies in both laboratory and fieldwork contexts for
purposes of corroboration (Bass, 2008). Although applying mixed methods research requires a researcher to learn about multiple
methods and how to mix them appropriately, the ability to answer a broader and more complete range of research questions
makes it a worthwhile endeavor (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).
Scholars have been providing insight into the application of mixed methods designs through examination of existing
published studies in the context of a variety of disciplines (Abowitz & Toole, 2010; Creswell & Zhang, 2009; Fielding, 2010;
Hanson, Plano Clark, Petska, Creswell, & Creswell, 2005; Kettles, Creswell, & Zhang, 2011; Palinkas et al., 2011; Plano Clark, 2010;
Plano Clark, Huddleston-Casas, Churchill, O'Neil Green, & Garrett, 2008; Plano Clark & Wang, 2010; Rauscher & Greenfield, 2009;
Schifferdecker & Reed, 2009; Small, 2011; Truscott et al., 2010). One recent review examined the prevalence, characteristics, and
added value of mixed methods studies to the management field and found that although mixed methods articles are still not
common in the field, those that are published are significantly more influential as determined by their higher impact factors
(Molina-Azorn, 2011). Although the application of mixed methods research designs has been examined across many fields and
disciplines, it has yet to be specifically addressed in the context of leadership research. A review of leadership articles
representing existing application of mixed methods designs to leadership research can provide researchers a pathway toward
development of new knowledge about the complex nature of leadership and understanding of how this research approach can be
successfully applied in the field.
According to Mumford (2011), The Leadership Quarterly (LQ) is a prominent journal in the fields of management and applied
psychology. During his term as senior editor of LQ (20052010), Mumford recognized that a multitude of research methods are
needed to understand the complexity of leader performance and how leaders affect many aspects of our world, and he advocated
for an increased need to apply multi-method approaches in order to advance our understanding of leadership. In a recent review
of scholarly leadership research over LQ's second decade (20002009), Gardner et al. (2010) also called for LQ editors to
encourage submission of methods-focused articles in the upcoming decade. They found that 188 articles were published in the
first decade of LQ (19901999) of which 55% were empirical, 46% were theoretical, and 10% were methods-focused. In the second
decade of LQ (20002009) they found 353 published articles of which 55% were empirical, 42% theoretical, and 3% were
methods-focused. The call for multi-methods approaches to leadership by Mumford and the identification of a decreasing trend of
methods-focused articles published in LQ by Gardner et al. (2010) provide support for examination into the application of mixed
methods research designs to leadership research. Furthermore, Gardner et al. (2010) proposed that publishing methods-related
articles will foster greater empirical rigor and stimulate the adoption of more diverse research strategies, thus providing an open
landscape for developing greater understanding of leadership and how to effectively apply research findings to real world
practices.
Since we found no existing review of mixed methods in the field of leadership studies, a review of mixed methods in existing
leadership literature appears timely in light of this growing trend across many fields and disciplines. The purpose of this review is
to examine the current use of mixed methods research in the field of leadership and classify exemplars that can serve as models
for scholars to utilize for their own studies. The results of this review will hopefully stimulate an increase in the application of
mixed methods designs in leadership research by helping scholars increase their understanding of mixed methods to answer
complex research questions toward furthering leadership theory and theoretical thinking.
Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

The specific research questions guiding this review are:


1.
2.
3.
4.

What aspects of leadership are found in published leadership studies using mixed methods?
What aspects of mixed methods are found in published leadership studies using mixed methods?
What are exemplars of using mixed methods to study leadership topics?
How can mixed methods be effectively applied to further leadership theory and theoretical thinking?

2. Conceptual framework
This review is guided by two conceptual frameworks, one for mixed methods research and one for leadership research.
2.1. Mixed methods research
Creswell and Plano Clark (2007) provide a definition of mixed methods that is useful for differentiating the many perspectives
people bring to defining mixed methods:
Mixed methods research is a research design with philosophical assumptions as well as methods of inquiry. As a
methodology, it involves philosophical assumptions that guide the direction of the collection and analysis and mixture of
qualitative and quantitative approaches in many phases of the research process. As a method, it focuses on collecting,
analyzing, and mixing both quantitative and qualitative data in a single study or series of studies. Its central premise is that
the use of quantitative and qualitative approaches in combination provides a better understanding of research problems
than either approach alone (p. 5).
Building on the design decisions that follow from this definition, Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) identify four elements
central to designing a mixed methods study. These decisions focus on the relationship between the quantitative and qualitative
components and include: (1) the extent of interaction, (2) the relative priority, (3) the timing, and (4) where and how they are
mixed. These key decisions are briefly defined here.
2.1.1. Interaction
The extent of interaction between the quantitative and qualitative study components is characterized by whether they are
kept independent from one another or interact with one another (Greene, 2007). When the components are kept independent
from one another they are conducted separately and only mixed during the overall interpretation at the end of the study. Direct
interaction implies that the components are mixed before the final interpretation stage of a study, such as during data analysis.
2.1.2. Priority
Priority refers to the relative emphasis placed on the quantitative and qualitative components for answering a study's
questions (Greene et al., 1989). The three possible priority options include: equal, quantitative, or qualitative.
2.1.3. Timing
The order in which the researcher collects and analyzes (or implements) the quantitative and qualitative components is
referred to as timing (Morse, 1991). Concurrent timing is applied when the researcher executes both the quantitative and
qualitative components during a single stage of the study. Sequential timing means that the researcher collects and analyzes one
type of data before collecting the other type. When the researcher implements multiple phases that include concurrent or
sequential timing, they are using multiphase combination timing (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011).
2.1.4. Mixing
Mixing refers to the researcher determining when and how to integrate or combine the two different types of data. Creswell
and Plano Clark (2011) suggest strategies for mixing that include: merging the two data sets; connecting from the analysis of one
set of data to the collection of a second set of data; embedding two forms of data within a larger design; and using a theoretical
framework to bind together multiple data sets. Mixing can occur at any of the four major steps in a research process: (1) during
interpretation, (2) during data analysis, (3) during data collection, and/or (4) during the research design process.
Consideration of the four key decisions by researchers typically leads to the implementation of one of four major mixed
methods designs that have been referred to as the convergent parallel design, the explanatory sequential design, the exploratory
sequential design, and the embedded design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Two additional designs that build on these major
mixed methods designs are the transformative design and the multiphase design. Here we provide a brief summary of the
characteristics and utility of these six designs.
2.1.5. Convergent parallel design
This design is characterized by concurrent timing for the implementation of the quantitative and qualitative components
during the same phase of the research process. The quantitative and qualitative methods are often prioritized equally and the
different components are kept independent and then mixed during the results stage where the overall interpretation is made.
Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

This design is useful for confirming results from one type of data with those of another or developing a multifaceted,
complementary picture of a phenomenon.
2.1.6. Explanatory sequential design
This design occurs in two distinct interactive phases. It begins with the collection and analysis of quantitative data, with the
quantitative data often being given priority for addressing the research questions. Then, the researcher gathers and analyzes
qualitative data to follow-up on the initial quantitative results. This design is useful when quantitative results need further
in-depth explanation.
2.1.7. Exploratory sequential design
This design also occurs in two phases, but begins with the collection and analysis of qualitative data, which are often
prioritized in the study design. In this case the researcher uses the quantitative data to build on the initial qualitative results. This
design is useful when initial qualitative results need further testing or quantification.
2.1.8. Embedded design
When using the embedded design, the researcher collects and analyzes both qualitative and quantitative data within an
overall traditional quantitative or qualitative research design. An example is the addition of a qualitative component within a
quantitative design, such as an experiment. This design is useful when the implementation or interpretation of a traditional
design (e.g., experiment or case study) needs to be enhanced with another type of data.
2.1.9. Transformative design
The transformative design involves collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data within the framework of an
overall transformative theoretical framework (e.g., a feminist perspective or critical race theory). This design is useful when a
researcher needs both types of research to advance the study's theoretical and advocacy stance.
2.1.10. Multiphase design
The multiphase design occurs when the researcher combines both sequential and concurrent design elements over a period of
time within a program of study dealing with an overall programmatic objective. This design is useful when a complex approach is
required to achieve multiple study objectives over time, such as in program development and evaluation.
This decision and design framework for mixed methods research informs our review by providing a methods-based
perspective for analyzing the application of mixed methods research. The four key design decisions give shape to the specific
categories we used in our analysis of the reviewed articles. We also applied this typology of mixed methods designs as a
framework to classify overall approaches in our review since it represents a parsimonious set of designs that has been successfully
used in other disciplinary reviews of mixed methods research.
2.2. Leadership research
Leadership has been defined in a multitude of ways by various scholars; however, the most commonly used definitions involve
the leader as a person, the behavior of the leader, the effects of the leader, and the interaction process between the leader and
followers (Bass, 2008). Building on these commonalities, Northhouse (2013) organizes the many different approaches to
leadership into fifteen different categories for purposes of advancing our understanding of leadership. We chose to use this
framework to classify the leadership aspects of the reviewed articles because it represents thorough yet concise themes for
considering leadership topics arranged in clearly distinguishable categories. Additionally, Northouse is a well known college level
text and is frequently cited so will have some familiarity to scholars and educators alike. Some of the articles reviewed could
reasonably be classified into more than one leadership category; however, we focused on identifying the category that appeared
to provide the best overall representation for each of the articles reviewed. The value in using this approach lies in maintaining a
simple approach that still accounted for the complex nature of leadership in research. The fifteen categories of leadership research
are briefly summarized here.
2.2.1. Trait approach
Traits reflect those characteristics that are hard-wired in people, those that are innate and cannot be changed.
2.2.2. Skills approach
Skills are those elements of leadership that can be learned and developed through practice. Leadership skills can be further
divided into two types; technical skill and human skill. Examples of specific skills include: problem-solving skills, social judgment
skills, and knowledge.
2.2.3. Style approach
The focus here is all about what leaders do and how they act. It is known for extending the study of leadership into looking at
actions of leaders toward subordinates in different contexts. Research involving the style approach attempts to explain how
leaders' task behaviors and relational behaviors influence subordinates toward reaching goals.
Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

2.2.4. Situational approach


Highly utilized in leadership training and development, this approach emphasizes the need for different types of leadership
according to situations. Thus, leadership style should be determined by what the situation calls for.
2.2.5. Contingency theory
Fiedler's contingency theory suggests that a leader's effectiveness depends on how well their leadership style fits the context.
This theory provides leadership researchers and practitioners with a framework for effectively matching leaders to situations.
2.2.6. Path-goal theory
A derivative of expectancy theory, path-goal theory suggests that the leader is challenged with using a leadership style that
best meets subordinates' motivational needs. It's all in how leaders are able to motivate subordinates to accomplish specific goals.
2.2.7. Leadermember exchange theory (LMX)
Characterized by treating the leadersubordinate relationship as a dyadic event, LMX theory is based on interactions between
leader and subordinate in ways that formulate in-groups and out-groups.
2.2.8. Transformational leadership
A leadership process that is thought to transform people, transformational leadership includes four factors; idealized
influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual motivation, and individualized consideration. According to Avolio (1999), Bass
and Avolio (1990) leaders improve subordinates' performance by developing their potential through practicing the four factors.
2.2.9. Servant leadership
Servant leadership offers a unique perspective to leadership in that it views leadership within a framework of leaders serving
their followers by putting the good of followers over their own self-interests. In the context of leadership research, servant
leadership is sometimes viewed as a trait and other times as a behavior.
2.2.10. Authentic leadership
The main focus of authentic leadership is on a leader's genuineness. Although there is no single acknowledged definition of
authentic leadership, it is collectively viewed in three different ways including; intrapersonal, developmental, and interpersonal.
2.2.11. Team leadership
This approach to leadership looks at how leader behaviors (mainly leader decisions) affect team performance. Although this is
one approach that takes into consideration the complexities of working teams, existing disapproval for team leadership rests on
the very nature of the model's complexity making it difficult to effectively research and practice.
2.2.12. Psychodynamic approach
This model represents many different ways of looking at leadership using one underlying fundamental concept, personality.
The concept of personality is defined as a consistent pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting toward the environment, which
includes other people. Therefore, the psychodynamic approach focuses on personalities of leaders and followers for studying
leadership.
2.2.13. Women and leadership
Much of this research approach is based on gender and leadership styles and effectiveness, along with identification of barriers
to high-level leadership positions by women in general.
2.2.14. Culture and leadership
Since globalization has required countries around the world to become more interdependent there is a clear need for
developing an understanding of how cultural differences affect leadership performance and outcomes. Research in the area of
culture and leadership provides leaders with the ability to practice effective leadership cross-culturally.
2.2.15. Leadership ethics
This approach discusses what ethical issues arise in leadership situations and how they affect others individually and
collectively.
3. Method
The methods used in this review followed what other researchers have done in their investigations of the use of mixed
methods research designs in other disciplines, such as family science, counseling psychology, and health-related research
(Hanson et al., 2005; Plano Clark, 2010; Plano Clark & Wang, 2010; Plano Clark et al., 2008).
Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

3.1. Sample and procedures


We selected LQ as the source for identifying examples of mixed methods leadership studies in this review for three primary
reasons as supported by a recent review by Gardner et al. (2010):
1. Researchers found a notable decline in the proportion of methods-focused articles, suggesting that LQ editors may want to
actively encourage the submission of methods-related articles in the upcoming decade to foster greater empirical rigor and
adoption of more diverse research strategies (p. 929).
2. Given that a core goal of LQ's mission is to publish studies that employ a wide range of research methods, the identified trend
toward a heavier mix of quantitative methods is a potential cause for concern (p. 943).
3. From a combination of focus groups and surveys of editorial board members LQ was found to be the top ranked and the most
frequently listed journal for leadership articles (p. 947).
Our analysis began with using the SciVerse ScienceDirect database to conduct a comprehensive manual review of the 1179
articles published in LQ between 1990 and June 2012 to identify existing applications of mixed methods designs in leadership
research. ScienceDirect is a full-text scientific database of journal articles managed by Elsevier. At this initial stage, article titles,
abstracts, and key words sections were manually reviewed for minimal evidence of mixed methods. For an article to be included
at this first level of sorting there had to be evidence of multi-methods simply reflecting the presence of both quantitative and
qualitative elements. That is, we examined the title, abstract, and keywords of each article for utilization of words like mixed
methods, multi-method, or quantitative and qualitative. For example, Palrecha, Spangler, and Yammarino (2012) identified
application of a multi-method approach utilizing both quantitative and qualitative work in their abstract, and Zhou and Schriesheim
(2010) included the words quantitative and qualitative in their title, so these articles were included as representations of possible
mixed methods studies during the initial stage of our review.
A total of 55 articles (5%) were identified as possible mixed methods studies resulting from the first stage of our analysis.
Table 1 shows the prevalence frequencies of each type of article published in LQ for the time period reviewed. The comprehensive
review of the 1179 articles published in LQ (1990June 2012) enabled us to classify these articles into four categories:
nonempirical (65%), quantitative (27%), qualitative (3%), and potentially mixed methods (5%). Interestingly, we found a lower
incidence of empirical articles (35%) in our review in comparison to what Gardner et al. (2010) identified as empirical articles
constituting 55% of all articles published in LQ in its first two decades. This could indicate a possibility of an increase in LQ
publishing more nonempirical articles, more methods-focused articles or some combination of both between 2009 and June 2012.
It could also represent variation in how different researchers classified the articles reviewed.
A second stage of analysis was utilized to further extrapolate the empirical articles representing mixing of the quantitative and
qualitative components during at least one stage of the study process (i.e. design, data collection, data analysis, or interpretation).
Our classification of the use of mixed methods during this second stage of our analysis was founded on a methods-based
definition of mixed methods research (i.e., the presence of both quantitative data collection and analysis and qualitative data
collection and analysis) since most authors report details of their studies' methods (but not always their larger methodological
and philosophical considerations). The first author read all 55 articles in their entirety in order to differentiate multi-method
designs that simply had quantitative and qualitative elements present, from mixed methods designs that met our definition of
having integrated the collection and analysis of both types of data. This second stage of the review was limited to articles resulting
from the first stage review that were published between 2004 and June 2012. This was deemed reasonable by the authors, given
the more recent trend in application of mixed methods in social sciences and preponderance of articles identified in the first stage
(82%) having been published after 2003. Furthermore, this purposeful limitation to our approach allowed us to focus on more
current studies of leadership. While the first author conducted all sorting at this level, 11 of the articles selected at this level of
analysis were reviewed through a corroborative process, whereby all three authors reviewed and discussed each article resulting
in multi-rater agreement. Ultimately, several examples were not included in our final sample because there was no inductive
qualitative analysis reported and no reporting of qualitative, unstructured results in the article. For example, Huang, Wright, Chiu,
and Wang (2008) described the use of a qualitative technique to elicit LMX schemas before examining the resulting schema
properties and testing their hypothesis, without reporting any qualitative analysis from the qualitative data collected.
Furthermore, Wang, Tsui, and Xin (2011) report using content analysis of the qualitative data they collected; however, this
analysis used predetermined categories combined with factor analysis toward creating an instrument for quantitative analysis.
Lastly, Zhou and Schriesheim (2010) described conducting two studies quantitatively and qualitatively; however, by applying our
Table 1
Types of articles published in LQ from January 1995 to June 2012 based on initial keyword search.
Article type

% of Total

Empirical study
Quantitative
Qualitative
Mixed methods
Nonempirical studya
Total

316
40
55
768
1179

27.0
3.0
5.0
65.0
100.0

All articles not identified by ScienceDirect as original research articles were included in this category.

Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

conceptual framework, and like Wang et al. (2011) above, we found no inductive qualitative, open-ended analysis reported by the
authors since the content analysis used predetermined categories to create numerical values thus representing quantification of
qualitative data. This second stage of analysis was revisited by the authors due to the high level of subjectivity and inherent
challenge in selecting articles within the conceptual framework for mixed methods used in the analysis. It was during this
additional analysis that the original 25 articles selected were reduced to 15. Part of the subjectivity inherent in this approach lies
in the selection of the conceptual framework for mixed methods, therefore, many of the original 25 articles may represent
application of mixed methods in leadership research but their reports did not satisfy the framework used for this analysis. This left
a total of 15 mixed methods articles for a third and final stage of analysis. Table 2 shows how all 15 articles were analyzed for
mixed methods features and Table 3 shows how they were sorted for leadership features, based on criteria that align with our
definitions presented in the conceptual framework section of this article.
In addition to classifying the mixed methods and leadership features of the articles, our final analysis yielded four articles
representing exemplary applications of mixed methods research in leadership. These articles were selected as examples that
stood out in our review as highlighting the criteria for the four elements central to designing a mixed methods study and the four
major designs for implementing mixed methods research, as reported previously in our conceptual framework for mixed
methods research.
4. Results
As shown in Table 3, the overall profile of the final sample, from a leadership approach perspective, is quite varied, in that the
15 mixed methods articles from the second stage of analysis represent 10 out of the 15 leadership approaches from our
conceptual framework for leadership. This provides evidence that existing researchers have already begun applying mixed
methods designs to advance leadership theory and/or theoretical thinking about a wide array of leadership phenomena. Our
findings show that researchers are even applying mixed methods designs to study one of the oldest theories in leadership, that
being trait theory (Anderson, Krajewski, Goffin, & Jackson, 2008; De Hoogh et al., 2005). Furthermore, these studies have been
conducted in a variety of countries and cultures, with studies in the United States representing 27% of the eight different study
locations (Amabile, Schatzela, Monetaa, & Kramer, 2004; Fry, Vitucci, & Cedillo, 2005; Morgeson & DeRue, 2006; Norman, Avolio,
& Luthans, 2010). Lastly, sample sizes appear to reflect a range of those normally utilized in both quantitative and qualitative
approaches, with the smallest sample size representing a single organization and the largest being a sample of over two thousand
employees. This may imply that mixed methods designs are being applied to both traditionally quantitative and qualitative
approaches to data collection. As stated previously, the overall application of mixed methods designs by leadership researchers
appears to have been predominantly occurring over the past decade.
The mixed methods research articles we report from our analysis apply only to individual articles that reported qualitative
data collection, analysis, and results; quantitative data collection, analysis, and results; and some form of integration of the two
components. The 15 mixed methods articles selected from our conceptual framework for mixed methods represented a variety of
mixed methods approaches including different options for timing, priority, mixing, and interaction (see Table 2). Although a
relatively small number of studies were identified as meeting the definition of mixed methods as they were reported individually,
as a group they illustrate a wide range of possible approaches for mixing methods. The most common mixed methods timing

Table 2
Mixed methods studies published in LQ between 2004 and June 2012.
Mixed methods design element
Interaction
Interactive
Independent
Total
Priority
Equal
Quantitative
Qualitative
Total
Timing
Concurrent
Sequential
Multiphase
Total
Mixing
Interpretation
Analysisa
Collection
Design
Total

N
10
5
15
5
7
3
15
5
9
1
15
5
1
6
3
15

a
One study applied mixing during both data collection and
analysis but is reported here as collection.

Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

Table 3
Leadership studies using mixed methods published in LQ between 2004 and June 2012.
Author (year)

Theory

Participants

Country

Amabile et al. (2004)


Anderson et al. (2008)
Berson and Avolio (2004)

Team
Trait
Transformational

United States
Canada
Israel

Carmeli and Schaubroeck (2006)


Clark and Greatbatch (2011)
Currie et al. (2009)
De Hoogh and Den Hartog (2008)

Team
Skills
Contingency
Ethics

De Hoogh et al. (2005)


Fry et al. (2005)
Morgeson and DeRue (2006)
Norman et al. (2010)
Rowland and Parry (2009)
Taylor et al. (2011)
Trichas and Schyns (2012)
Tsui, Zhang, Wang, Xin, and Wu (2006)

Trait
Ethics
Team
Authentic
Team
Psychodynamic
Psychodynamic
Contingency

Employees (N = 238)
Managers (N = 44)
Employees (N = 2200)
Dyads (N = 101)
Organizations (N = 116)
Managers (N = 58)
Schools (N = 200)
CEOs (N = 73)
Subordinates (N = 249)
CEOs (N = 73)
Soldiers (N = 200)
Organizations (N = 4)
Employees (N = 304)
Organization (N = 1)
Organization (N = 6)
Students (N = 158)
Students/managers (N = 1587)

Israel
United Kingdom
England
Netherlands
Netherlands
United States
United States
United States
Australia
Australia
United Kingdom
China

Note. Boldfaced are exemplary designs.

element identified was sequential, which implies that researchers reported using the results of one method to shape the
implementation of the other. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the most common priority classification was quantitative, but examples
were also found that balanced the use of the two approaches within the study or even prioritized the qualitative component. The
higher incidence of applying sequential timing and balanced incidence of priority could imply that many leadership researchers
prefer giving priority to a quantitative or qualitative approach, or that insights emerging from one component led to the
implementation of another component. This can happen when a researcher discovers that they can learn more from a
quantitative component by following it up with a qualitative component. The higher incidence of direct interaction between the
quantitative and qualitative components shows that these researchers mixed the two components prior to interpretation.
The four exemplary designs resulting from our final analysis reflect application of the four major mixed methods designs that
have been referred to as the convergent parallel design, the explanatory sequential design, the exploratory sequential design, and
the embedded design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Table 4 shows a categorical representation of articles that represent
exemplary application of these four major designs and we briefly summarize each of them here.
One common reason for applying a convergent parallel design is a case where the researcher finds value in collecting and
analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data to fully understand a problem (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011), as was claimed by
Taylor, Cocklin, Brown, and Wilson-Evered (2011) in their mixed methods research design. These authors provide a rationale for
using a multiple case study research design for researching a phenomenon that is strongly affected by contextual factors. They
also purport that the multiple case study research design provides a framework for the synergistic mix of qualitative and
quantitative data collection methods (Taylor et al., 2011, p. 416). These authors described the main source of their sample (i.e.,
effective SUWM project champions) as a rare occurrence in the organizational locations of their study, thus the application of
traditional quantitative research designs relying on quantitative data was ruled out. Furthermore, they provided a clear rationale
for the application of a mixed methods research design, which aids researchers in the identification of how and why such designs
are utilized. The qualitative component of this study consisted of the collection of interview and memoing data, reviewed by way
of document and content analysis using an existing methodology. The quantitative component of this study consisted of the
collection of questionnaire data to assess factors deemed important from the initial literature review to be combined with the
qualitative information. The study by Taylor et al. (2011) represents an exemplar application of a convergent parallel design
through the concurrent collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data merged together during the analysis stage of
the study for a more complete understanding. Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) offer the following additional reasons why
researchers might choose a convergent design:
The researcher has limited time for collecting data and must collect both types of data in one visit to the field.
The researcher has skills in both quantitative and qualitative methods of research.
The researcher can manage extensive data collection and analysis activities (p. 77).
Table 4
Exemplary mixed methods studies published in LQ between 2004 and June 2012.

Author (year)
Timing
Priority
Mixing
Interaction

Convergent parallel

Explanatory sequential

Exploratory sequential

Embedded

Taylor et al. (2011)


Concurrent
Qualitative
Interpretation
Independent

Currie et al. (2009)


Sequential
Quantitative
Data collection (and analysis)
Interactive

Anderson et al. (2008)


Sequential
Qualitative
Data collection
Interactive

Rowland and Parry (2009)


Sequential
Qualitative
Design
Interactive

Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

Currie, Lockett, and Suhomlinova (2009) applied an explanatory sequential design to examine leadership in the context of
institutional change. Quantitative methods were utilized to look at leadership style and institutional performance, while
qualitative methods were utilized as a follow-up on the initial results to show how institutional context impacts leadership. The
interview questions asked in the qualitative phase were designed based on the quantitative results. The qualitative component
was applied with less priority and as a distinct phase in the study to gain greater insight into the interaction between leadership
and environment. This appears to fit one reason for choosing this design, in that not all of the research questions could be
answered with quantitative data (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) offer the following additional
reasons why researchers might choose an explanatory design:
The researcher and the research problem are more quantitatively oriented.
The researcher knows the important variables and has access to a quantitative instruments for measuring the constructs of
primary interest.
The researcher has the ability to return to participants for a second round of qualitative data collection.
The researcher has the time to conduct the research in two phases.
The researcher has limited resources and needs a design where only one type of data is being collected and analyzed at a time
(p. 82).
The qualitative component in phase one of the exploratory design, utilized by Anderson et al. (2008) ultimately provided these
authors with instruments to measure leadership self-efficacy and leadership effectiveness. These authors reported collecting
qualitative data and analyzing that data qualitatively during phase one of their study through interviews for purposes of deriving
88 key leadership behaviors used for creation of a leadership taxonomy they tested quantitatively in the remaining two phases of
their study. This exploratory sequential design resulted in a leadership self-efficacy measure that could be potentially used to
predict, understand, and develop effective leadership (Anderson et al., 2008, p. 595). The purposeful application of a major mixed
methods design resulted in a classification of leadership self-efficacy beyond that which existing leadership research provided,
that is its application allowed for the extension of theoretical thinking about leadership self-efficacy in both a more specific and
comprehensive manner.
Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) offer the following additional reasons why researchers might choose an exploratory design:

The researcher and the research problem are more qualitatively oriented.
The researcher has the time to conduct the research in two phases.
The researcher has limited resources and needs a design where only one type of data is being collected and analyzed at a time.
The researcher identifies new emergent research questions based on qualitative results that cannot be answered with
qualitative data (p. 87).

Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) state that the major reason for selecting an embedded design is so that the researcher can
combine the collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data under a traditional quantitative or qualitative design (p. 90).
This is what Rowland and Parry (2009) appear to have done when they embedded a post-positivist theory-testing quantitative
component to augment their grounded theory-based traditional constructivist approach. They utilized a quantitative measure of
leadership style to enhance their development of and validation of their emergent theory that was based on qualitative observational
and interview data.
Some additional reasons for selecting an embedded design are suggested by Creswell and Plano Clark (2011):

The researcher has the expertise necessary to implement the planned quantitative or qualitative design in a rigorous way.
The researcher is comfortable having the study be driven by either a quantitative or qualitative primary orientation.
The researcher has little prior experience with the supplemental method.
The researcher does not have adequate resources to place equal priority on both types of data (p. 91).

5. Discussion
We have provided an overview of what leadership researchers can do to create and conduct exemplary mixed methods
research designs capable of creatively advancing leadership theory and/or theoretical thinking about leadership phenomena, as
recently called for in LQ. The findings in this review show that mixed methods designs are already being utilized in prototypical
ways by leadership researchers, thus there is reason to believe that the next decade of leadership research is bound to greatly
advance our collective knowledge. The four exemplary articles show how and why mixed methods can answer the complex
questions of leadership in new and meaningful ways using mixed methods designs. Many of the leadership approaches listed in
the criteria sections of this paper have yet to be fully understood or tested, especially in a globalized sense. These articles
exemplify how mixed methods designs can promote the development of new understandings about existing theories while
advancing our theoretical thinking in ways that are both deeper and broader. It is hoped that this work will encourage leadership
researchers to continue finding new ways to apply mixed methods designs to the study of contemporary leadership.
We found evidence of several leadership studies (Huang et al., 2008; Wang et al., 2011; Zhou & Schriesheim, 2010) that were
likely mixed methods research in their conduct, but that which we did not report as mixed methods research since no
interpretive qualitative analysis or results were included. This is appropriate if the reported results answer the important research
questions; however, it is likely that the authors would have learned more about their topic through the synergistic insights that
Please cite this article as: Stentz, J.E., et al., Applying mixed methods to leadership research: A review of current practices, The
Leadership Quarterly (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.10.001

10

J.E. Stentz et al. / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2012) xxxxxx

emerged from the qualitative information in combination with the statistics. Leadership theory and/or theoretical thinking would
benefit if researchers explicitly looked for those additional insights and also reported them in the literature when they occur.
6. Limitations and future research
In closing, we offer limitations to our research. First, this review was limited to articles published in LQ. There are other
journals that publish research articles on the topic of leadership, so the findings in this review may be underrepresented overall.
Second, the manual review of articles representing empirical research can be a daunting task. It can be difficult at times to follow a
researcher's design plan and implementation and this leaves additional room for error in judgment. Although specific criteria
were used and multiple raters reviewed some of the same articles, this does not rule out any risk that a mixed methods design can
be interpreted in more than one way by different reviewers. In addition, we were applying criteria that the authors themselves
may not have had in mind when designing and conducting their studies. We also recognize that studies conducted as mixed
methods may be published across separate quantitative and qualitative articles, but this review was limited to individual articles
and did not include studies that resulted in multiple publications (e.g., Bartone, Snook, Forsythe, Lewis, & Bullis, 2007).
One recent meta-analysis on a leadership topic provides evidence that researchers are beginning to call out specifically for
mixed methods designs to the application of leadership research. This example is provided in a recent meta-analysis on the topic
of Positive Psychological Capital by Avey, Reichard, Luthans, and Mhatre (2011). They identify the lack of a mixed methods design
study as an area of omission and propose that applying a mixed methods design to the study of Positive Psychological Capital
could advance our understanding of how it may relate to underlying mechanisms and processes of unstudied variables (e.g., health
and relationships). Although the use of mixed methods designs by leadership researchers appears to be growing, there is still much
to be discovered in terms of what it offers for the advancement of leadership theory.
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