Original Research

Psychological strengths: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of Muslim women leaders

Fahrial Amla, Johanna H. Buitendach
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 17 | a1185 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v17i0.1185 | © 2019 Fahrial Amla, Johanna H. Buitendach | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 March 2019 | Published: 26 November 2019

About the author(s)

Fahrial Amla, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Johanna H. Buitendach, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: The nature and representation of psychological strengths is an emerging area of positive psychology. Individual differences occur in strengths profiles between people, which may be attributed to educational, occupational, gender and cultural influences and can be qualitatively explored using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The application of strengths measurement is underway in South Africa, but locally developed, context-specific strengths taxonomies are currently lacking, as well as research linking psychological strengths and leadership. Muslim women in leadership deal with general gender-related leadership challenges as well as specific cultural and religious issues, and the application of psychological strengths may serve as enabling factors.

Research purpose: This study aimed to explore and describe the psychological strengths demonstrated by a minority sub-population of South African women leaders in the workplace.

Motivation for the study: Psychological strengths are linked to flourishing and well-being. Understanding their representation and their context of application can enhance both the academic literature and organisational practices surrounding them. A minority leadership group of Muslim women were appointed for this study, bearing in mind their particular leadership challenges and the enabling strengths they employ as a point of interest, as possible indicators for future strengths and leadership development initiatives.

Research approach/design and method: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 Muslim women leaders from various employment industries who held senior management or leadership roles. IPA method was used for the analysis and interpretation of the results.

Main findings: Interpretative phenomenological analysis of the interview data revealed a taxonomy of 28 psychological strengths, which were categorised as cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, values/motives or behavioural.

Practical/managerial implications: The strengths may be focussed on for leadership development and it is recommended that the study should be replicated across various cultural groups to identify and develop the strengths that occur in the diversity of leaders within the South African work context.

Contribution/value-add: This exploratory study contributes to the knowledge base of psychological strengths. It also highlights specific strengths to be considered when implementing leadership development programmes, particularly those for Muslim women in South African workplaces.


Keywords

psychological strengths; interpretative phenomenological analysis; positive psychology; leadership; women (or gender) and work

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