Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Sharon B. Press


Organizational Leadership


We are at a critical juncture in an increasingly divisive and partisan United States. Political polarization, with its underlying social divisions, has worsened these past 20 years into extreme ideological and affective polarization – which are having deleterious effects on American government, institutions, and society (Carothers & O’Donohue, 2019b). While the academic literature points to a salient need to disrupt and remedy polarization, little has been written about grassroots approaches to depolarization, and even less about depolarizing leaders themselves. My research addressed this gap. The purpose of this qualitative research project was to explore the work of depolarizing leaders – what they are trying to do, what it takes to do this work, and to what effect. The data for this qualitative research project was collected via semistructured interviews with nine depolarizing leaders in the United States. The findings describe how the study participants are trying to effect transformational individual and societal change via bottom-up grassroots dialogue work in order to build healthy relationships and foster collaboration. They give us a better understanding of what it takes to be a leader in the depolarization arena, explicate the challenges these leaders face, and point to the need for more evaluative studies to gauge the efficacy of their work. The implications of this study are practical – they can be used to inform the work of depolarizing leaders, and the depolarizing arena more broadly, as well as benefit the general public. In addition, they point to potential areas for further research.