Simon Rakoff, Ph.D. is a 2010 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Al Guskin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Carol Baron, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • David Shaner, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Sharon McDowell-Larsen, Ph.D., External Reader


mindfulness, mixed methods, single-subject research, leadership, aikido, executive development, training intervention, attention, daily habit, leader development, stress

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Leadership is, at its essence, an influence relationship between people. Leaders are often thought of as those who are able to influence people to take actions oriented toward achieving specific goals and objectives. While many books have been written, and myriad scholarly research studies conducted enumerating countless personal characteristics, qualities, and skills of the exemplary leader, little has been done to understand and convey the ways in which an individual might go about cultivating these virtues; which are often said to include charisma, empathy, communication skills, and others. Through a multiple single-subject design, this research examines the individual-level effect of a set of somatic daily practices for leader development—techniques integrated into everyday activities such as walking, sitting, and driving a car—based on the underlying principles of the Japanese art of aikido. The daily practices were designed to address 3 abilities at the individual level that are believed to be important to the leadership relationship: (a) focusing and sustaining the focus of attention, (b) establishing and maintaining genuine connections to other people, and (c) reducing and minimizing tension and stress. These 3 abilities function as facilitators of the individual skills, characteristics, and qualities that are thought to contribute to leader capability. Five study participants were taught the daily practices for leader development. Participants were asked to apply the practices as often as possible during the 12-week study period. They met with the researcher for 1 hour each week to review the practices and share their experiences implementing them. The Center for Creative Leadership’s Benchmarks 360-Degree Leader Assessment Inventory was used to measure leader ability before and after. Participants provided weekly self-assessments of attention, connection, and tension/stress. All 5 leaders made measurable improvements in one or more of the 3 ability areas of attention, connection, and tension/stress. Both the self-assessment data from the study participants and, in some cases, the external 360-degree assessment rating data from peers, superiors, and direct reports, showed meaningful improvement over the 12-week period. The findings indicated that, in a relatively short period of time, individual leaders can make dramatic changes in deeply habituated leadership-related behaviors. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLINK ETD Center,