Stressors and Strains of Leading Diverse Organizations

By: Korie Edwards  

In this study, I draw upon data from the Religious Leadership and Diversity Project - a national, multi-method study of leadership of multiracial/multiethnic religious organizations in the United States (see for more) - to address how leaders experience developing and sustaining racially and ethnically diverse organizations. A good deal of scholarship notes the importance of leaders for achieving this aim. However, I argue that it is critical for scholars to situate leaders within their social contexts to understand their leadership capacity. In other words, leaders' ability to forge diverse communities is dependent upon the power that their followers, organizational peers, and even society affords them. I draw upon role strain theory to frame the analysis. I propose that leaders of diverse religious organizations in the United States, due to structural constraints on their influence and authority, occupy what I call an "unscripted role" in society. I discuss the implications of this type of role.

religion leadership race
Community Diversity and Governance
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Korie Edwards

Associate Professor, Sociology, The Ohio State University, United States
OH, United States

Dr. Korie L Edwards is Associate Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University. She is a leading scholar of race and religion in the United States and current President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Relgion, an international, interdisciplinary association ( What drives Dr. Edwards' scholarly agenda is her passion about and commitment to matters of racial and ethnic justice in religious organizations. She has written several books and articles on multiracial religious organizations. These inlcude The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches (author, Oxford University Press); Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations (co-author, New York University Press); and "Much Ado About Nothing: Rethinking the Efficacy of Multiracial Churches for Racial Reconciliation," which appears in the edited volume Christians and the Color Line: Race and Religion after Divided by Faith (author, Oxford University Press). Dr. Edwards' current scholarship focuses on matters related to race and religous leadership. She is developing a book on contemporary African American religious leaders and their engagement in civic and political activity. And she is heading a national study of multiracial church pastors called the Religious Leadership and Diversity PRoject (see The RLDP is the most in-depth, comprehensive project ever conducted on leaders of multiracial congregations.