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Leaders can have a negative impact on organizations when they knowingly or unknowingly attempt to save face, that is, try to protect their standing or reputation. The strong cultural value of not losing face presents a unique challenge for organizational leaders. The desire to gain face and the fear of losing face will likely permeate leaders‟ decision-making processes without even being noticed. The phenomenon of face exists both in China and in the United States, yet misunderstandings and a lack of understanding of face exist in both countries. Face management is the communicative strategies people use to manage face during social interactions. The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study is to explore the essence of face management and the relationship between face management and two characteristics of servantleadership— awareness and healing—with a sample of Christian church leaders in China and the United States. Prior to this study, to my knowledge, no hermeneutic phenomenological research of face management has been conducted in a church setting.

Through a review of the literature, four areas are explored: the concept of face, face management, servant-leadership, and face and face management in the church. Three Chinese and three American Christian church leaders were chosen to complete a question sheet and participate in two semi-structured interview sessions. A first cycle of open coding and second cycle of pattern coding were used during data analysis with the engagement of the epoché. Authenticity, crystallization, and ethical relationship, as the criteria of trustworthiness, guard the whole research. Face experiences are discussed in light of eight major themes: body, triggers, becoming, face concepts, strategies, emotions, servant-leadership, and the church. Findings from the study help support and update two theoretical models: a face and face management model and a servant-leadership and face management model. These two models contribute to the theories of face, face management, and servant-leadership and offer theoretical tools for further study of face and servant-leadership. It is hoped that this study will help leaders develop understanding and awareness of face and face management to move their leadership toward peace and healing.


A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies School of Leadership Studies of Gonzaga University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Jiying Song, July 2018.