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Self-leadership and mature adults pursuing tertiary education: Five Singaporean case studies

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posted on 22.02.2017, 23:15 by Khoo, Boo Hor Robert
This research is focused on the concept of self-leadership, and the way its influence over career successful mature Singaporean adults has resulted in their pursuit of a first tertiary qualification. Singapore's historical past includes being a British Crown colony, being ruled by the Japanese during the Second World War, being merged to form what is Malaysia today and finally, becoming an independent country for the last five decades. This post-colonial setting has become the basis of my research. Framed in post-colonial theory, this thesis was inspired by Chen's (2010) work, Asia as Method and is guided by his argument about seeking cultural and psychological identities for formerly colonised people. This theoretical frame has outlined my thinking and it is through this lens that I analysed the data. Through a qualitative approach, this research was able to attain in-depth understandings of how a culturally varied concept like self-leadership is understood and interpreted by mature Singaporeans. What does the self-leadership concept mean to them and how it is being defined? Within an interpretive framwork, this research generated five csse studies which were based on semi-structured interviews and artefact analysis. A total of four stands bring together aspects of self-leadership in Singapore: the importance of leading and motivating, an emphasis on goal striving, narratives about the search for the self, and the idea of self-leadership in uniquely Singapore, supported by cultural insights on the self-leadership questionnaire. New findings on the construct self-leadership emerged as a result of this study in which eight Singapore-centric self-leadership qualities were identified through the interpretation of the data. The study integrates the literature of four related topics, namely culture and education from a Singaporean perspective, the concept of self-leadership, self and identity and adult learning, thus providing a fresh perspective on self-leadership. Second, the research confirms the importance of the cultural context when self-leadership is examined in Singapore and contributes a new cultural perspective in the research of self-leadership. This thesis therefore argues that the self-leadership theory as proposed by Western authors be re-framed to suit discussion in an Asian and in particular, a Singaporean context. This thesis also argues that the self-leadership concept need not be limited to or explained exclusively by a Western outlook. This study proposes that self-leadership qualities articulated directly or indirectly by the participants through their interpretation of the concept under a Singapore cultural context can be used in the reframing of self-leaderrship dimensions. This process involves adding categories to a self-leadership questionnaire or RSLQ (Houghton & Neck, 2002) in order to support the development of a Singaporean specific cultural extension to the RSLQ.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jane Bone

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education