Sunny Im


The qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of Cambodian expatriates who were leading successful nonprofits in their homeland. The research participants were all senior level leaders within non-profit organizations in Cambodia. Data were collected during the months of February and March 2016 after which the data were analyzed for common themes. The participants identified the following success strategies with respect to leadership styles: (a) affiliative leadership, (b) authoritative leadership, (c) democratic leadership, (d) democratic leadership, (e) pacesetting leadership, (f) coaching leadership, and (g) coercive leadership. The specific strategies, techniques, and philosophies that lead them to success included: (a) interpersonal and leadership qualities, (b) vision and goal setting, (c) developing others and building strong relationships, and (d) cross-cultural awareness and community involvement. The challenges they faced were (a) socio-economic issues, (b) political issues, (c) mindset and perspective, and (d) cultural issues. To overcome the challenges, they utilized the approaches of (a) support systems, relationships, and strategic partnerships; (b) leadership characteristics – general; (c) leadership characteristics – authenticity; (d) leadership characteristics – adaptability; and (e) management and operational strategy. The participants measured success through (a) intrinsic or interpersonal measures and (b) affect on others or motivational measures. More specifically, they utilized (a) business goals, (b) personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, (c) organizational reputation, (d) impact and influence, and (e) communities of practice and team cohesion as assessment and evaluation methods. Finally, they offered the following recommendations to other leaders: (a) training and support, (b) humility and authenticity, (c) adaptability and resiliency, (d) empowerment and impact, (e) live in and learn about Cambodia, and (f) influence of Western ideology. The findings of this study may benefit Cambodians by (a) providing prospective Cambodian non-profit leaders with specific strategies and techniques towards success, (b) providing Cambodian youths with pathways to connect to their culture and a pathway for leadership success, (c) providing Cambodian elders with opportunities to overcome trauma associated with the war and connect with the culture, and (d) providing the Cambodian population a pathway to heal and help in the rebuilding process and bridge the disconnect between the Cambodians and the Cambodian diaspora.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Cambodian Americans -- Case studies; Nonprofit organizations -- Management; Community development -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Madjidi, Farzin;