This autoethnography examines the juxtaposition of Western and Indigenous ideas of leadership through my lens and experiences as a refugee, student-athlete, a patriarch in a sub-Saharan African culture, and Soldier. I utilized existing literature on leadership perspectives from multiple regions (McManus & Perruci, 2015) to contextualize the study, revealing insights into differences in leader-follower relationship, decision-making, and responsibilities. Although the Western context, specifically the United States, is predominantly individualistic, I highlight the versatility and plurality of its leadership—sports and the military provide the most potent examples. Leaders in the Western context are judged on their leadership role, whereas Indigenous leaders are judged on their actions and every aspect of their life beyond their role. Indigenous Dinka (South Sudan) leadership context reveals unique insights into the role of leaders, followers, context, and culture. Leadership educators and scholars can use the insights to inform leadership development programs, research agendas for immigrant youth in the United States, and youth models of leadership ideas in practice.


western and Indigenous leadership, leadership development, autoethnography

Author Bio(s)

Dau Jok, Ph.D. is the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools in Iowa. Jok leads the systemic implementation of SEL and adult SEL professional learning in DMPS, a district of 33,000 students and 60 buildings. A former Division I basketball captain, Jok is a 2021-2 SEL Fellow for the CASEL Fellows Academy, non-profit director, and company commander in the United States Army Reserve. His quest to create inclusive communities of human excellence by humanizing knowledge, leadership, and work is informed by his indigenous Dinka (South Sudan) roots. Jok holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, a MSc in Global Leadership from Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Ph.D. in Education from Drake University. His research focuses on Indigenous Knowledge Systems—Indigenous Education and Leadership, emotional intelligence, and African history. Please direct correspondence to dau.jok@drake.edu.


I want to acknowledge the world’s Indigenous communities, especially in Africa, for their humanity, persistence, and contributions to mankind despite the subjugation and oppression by European colonizers. I want to thank Dr. Robyn Cooper, Drake University, for her mentorship, leadership, and support. I want to acknowledge and extend my appreciation for everyone that has influenced and shaped the person I am today.

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