Leadership in the Face of Trauma: A Qualitative Study of Forced Ukrainian Christian Migrants


  • Alexander Negrov Ukrainian Leadership Center, United States
  • Oleksandr Malov Ukrainian Leadership Center, Ukraine
  • Dina Polishchuk-Prokopchuk Hodos Institute, United States




leadership, trauma, forced migration, multifaceted leadership, values, adaptability, compassion, Сhristian spirituality, empathy, resilience, faith, war


This article delves into the leadership experiences of Ukrainian Christian forced migrants amidst the ongoing aggressive war against Ukraine. Drawing from theoretical frameworks related to trauma and forced migration, as well as leadership models, this research seeks to comprehend the intricacies of leadership exhibited by Ukrainian displaced individuals. Based on qualitative data from 130 participants, the study identifies key themes concerning leadership during wartime. It contributes to the development of a trauma-sensitive theology of leadership and offers insights into the leadership development requirements of Ukrainians post-war. The insights gathered from these refugees reveal that wartime leadership is dynamic and multifaceted. It encompasses values, adaptability, compassion, and Christian spirituality, extending beyond traditional models to prioritize the well-being of individuals and communities. The experiences and perspectives of these refugees offer valuable lessons for understanding leadership in the most challenging of circumstances, emphasizing the enduring importance of empathy, resilience, and faith in guiding individuals and communities through times of war.

Author Biography

Alexander Negrov, Ukrainian Leadership Center

PhD. Founder and CEO, Ukrainian Leadership Center, Ukraine; Hodos Institute, USA 



  1. Alexander, J. C. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004.
  2. Alwyn, Lau W. W. “Saved by Trauma: A Psychoanalytical Reading of the Atonement.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 55 no. 3 (2016): 273-81. doi:10.1111/dial.12263.
  3. Anacker G. J. and J. R. Shoup. “Leadership in the Context of Christian Worldview”. In Burns, Jack, Shoup, John R, and Simmons Jr., Donald C. (eds). Organizational Leadership. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014, 35-64.
  4. Baldwin, Jennifer. Trauma Sensitive Theology: Thinking Theologically in the Era of Trauma. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock/Cascade Books, 2018.
  5. Bekker C. “Towards a Theoretical Model of Christian Leadership,” Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership 2 no. 2 (2009): 142-152.
  6. Ben-Yehuda, Hemda and R. Goldstein. “Forced Migration Magnitude and Violence in International Crises: 1945–2015.” Journal of Refugee Studies 33 no. 2 (2020): 335. doi:10.1093/jrs/feaa039.
  7. Benefiel, Margaret. Crisis Leadership. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2021.
  8. Cohen, R. and Francis Deng. Masses in Flight. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012.
  9. DeRue, D. Scott. “Adaptive Leadership Theory: Leading and Following as a Complex Adaptive Process.” Research in Organizational Behavior 31 (2011): 125-150.
  10. Dyczok, M. The Grand Alliance and Ukrainian Refugees. New York: St. Martin’s Press / St. Antony’s College, Oxford, 2000.
  11. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena et al. The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  12. Fontanari, Elena. Lives in Transit: An Ethnographic Study of Refugees’ Subjectivity Across European Borders. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.
  13. Fry, L. “Spiritual Leadership: State-of-the-Art and Future Directions for Theory, Research, and Practice,” In J. Biberman & L. Tishman (eds.). Spirituality in Business: Theory, Practice, and Future Directions. New York: Palgrave, 2008, 106-124.
  14. Fry, L. “Toward a Theory of Spiritual Leadership.” The Leadership Quarterly 14 no. 6 (2003): 693-727.
  15. Fry, L., and M. Kriger. “Towards a Theory of Being-Centered Leadership: Multiple Levels of Being as Context for Effective Leadership.” Human Relations 62 no. 11 (2009): 1667-1696.
  16. Fry, L., and M.S. Nisiewicz. Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line through Spiritual Leadership. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.
  17. Fry, Louis W., and Eleftheria Egel. “Global Leadership for Sustainability.” Sustainability 13 no. 11 (2021): 6360. doi:10.3390/su13116360.
  18. Gill, R. and A. Negrov. “Love as an influence for good in leadership.” Theology of Leadership 4 no. 1 (2021): 35.
  19. Gladwell, M. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 2006.
  20. Hanna M. “What Is ‘Christian’ About Christian Leadership?” The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership 1 no. 2 (2006): 21-31.
  21. Haukka, J. et al. “The Impact of Forced Migration on Mortality.” Epidemiology 28 no. 4 (2017): 587-593.
  22. Havard, Alexandre. Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence. 2nd ed. Scepter Publishers, 2017.
  23. Heifetz, Ronald A. et al. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2009.
  24. Huffstutler, David. Spiritual Leadership: A Biblical Theology of the Role of the Spirit in the Leadership of God’s People. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016.
  25. Javanbakht, A. “Addressing war trauma in Ukrainian refugees before it is too late.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 13 no. 2 (2022). doi:10.1080/20008066.2022 .2104009.
  26. Jawaid, A., M. Gomolka, and A. Timmer. “Neuroscience of trauma and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” Nat Hum Behav 6 (2022): 748-749. doi:10.1038/s41562-022-01344-4.
  27. Jones, Serene. Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World. 2nd ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019.
  28. Kouzes, James M., Barry Z. Pozner, and John C. Maxwell. Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. New York, NY: Wiley, 2009.
  29. Ledbetter B., Banks, R., and Greenhalgh. Reviewing leadership: A Christian Evaluation of Current Approaches. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016, 90.
  30. Lichtenstein, B., and D. A. Plowman. “The leadership of emergence: A complex systems leadership theory of emergence at successive organizational levels,” The Leadership Quarterly 20 no. 4 (2009): 617-630.
  31. Măcelaru, M. V. “Christianity and the Refugee Crisis.” Transformation 35 no. 2 (2018): 69-76. doi:10.1177/0265378818802699.
  32. Moltmann, Jürgen. God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.
  33. Moltmann, Jürgen. Science and Wisdom. Minneapolis. MN: Fortress Press, 2003. Moltmann, Jürgen. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. London: SCM Press, 1974.
  34. Moo, Douglas, and Jonathan Moo. Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018.
  35. Moore, W. H. and S. M. Shellman. “Refugee or Internally Displaced Person?: To Where Should One Flee?” Comparative Political Studies 39 no. 5 (2006): 599-622. doi:10.1177/0010414005276457.
  36. Murray, J. S. “War and conflict: addressing the psychosocial needs of child refugees.” Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education 40 no. 1 (2019): 3-18.
  37. Negrov, A., and A. Malov.“Eco-Theology and Environmental Leadership in Orthodox and Evangelical Perspectives in Russia and Ukraine,” Religions 12 (2021), 305. doi:10.3390/rel12050305.
  38. Phelps, O. The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus: The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus: Introducing S3 Leadership – Servant, Steward, Shepherd. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2009.
  39. Rodin R. S. The Steward Leader. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010.
  40. Ross, Langmead. “Refugees as Guests and Hosts: Towards a Theology of Mission Among Refugees and Asylum Seekers.” Exchange 43 no. 1 (2014): 41.
  41. Salehyan, I. “Conclusion: What academia can contribute to refugee policy.” Journal of Peace Research 56 no. 1 (2019): 146-151. doi:10.1177/0022343318812975.
  42. Santa Barbara, J. “Impact of War on Children and Imperative to End War.” Croatian Medical Journal 47 no. 6 (2006): 891-94.
  43. Schwartz, L. et al. “Addressing the Mental Health Needs and Burdens of Children Fleeing War: A Field Update From Ongoing Mental Health And Psychosocial Support Efforts at the Ukrainian Border.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 13 no. 2 (2022), doi:10.1080/20008198.2022.2101759.
  44. Silove, D., Ventevogel, P. and Rees, S. “The contemporary refugee crisis: an overview of mental health challenges.” World Psychiatry 16 no. 2 (2017): 130-139.
  45. Su, Z. et al. “Media-Induced War Trauma Amid Conflicts in Ukraine.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 18 no. 4 (2023): 908-911. doi:10.1177/17456916221109609.
  46. Sweeney, P. J., and L.W. Fry.“Character Development through Spiritual Leadership.” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 64 no. 2 (2012): 89-107. doi:10.1037/a0028966.
  47. Tangen, K. I. “Leadership as Idolatry. The case of Stalinism and beyond.” Scandinavian Journal of Leadership and Theology 5 no. 1 (2018). doi:10.53311/sjlt.v4.24.
  48. Tangen, K. I. “Leadership as Participation in the Hospitality of God. A Reading of Luke-Acts.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 27 no. 2 (2018): 284-306.
  49. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. “Children: Innocent Victims of War in Ukraine.” The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 6 no. 5 (2022): 279-279. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(22)00102-X.
  50. Uhl-Bien, M., R. Marion, and B. McKelvey. “Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era.” The Leadership Quarterly 18 no. 4 (2007): 298-318.
  51. Vashchenko, Nataliia. “The Main Narratives of Russian Propaganda as Impact-Generating Issues in Terms of Consciental War of Russia Against Ukraine.” Scientific Notes of the Institute of Journalism 1 no. 76 (2020): 180-202. doi:10.17721/2522-1272.2020.76.15.
  52. Volkan, V. D. Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey Through War and Peace. Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013.
  53. Volkan, V. D. Immigrants and Refugees: Trauma, Perennial Mourning, Prejudice, and Border Psychology. New York, NY: Routledge, 2017.
  54. Wendel, Alex R. “Trauma-Informed Theology or Theologically Informed Trauma?” Journal of Reformed Theology 16 no. 1-2 (2022): 3-26. doi:10.1163/15697312-bja10022. Zolberg, A. “Managing a World on the Move.” Population and Development Review 32 (2006): 222-53. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2006.tb00009.x.




How to Cite

Negrov, Alexander, Oleksandr Malov, and Dina Polishchuk-Prokopchuk. 2023. “Leadership in the Face of Trauma: A Qualitative Study of Forced Ukrainian Christian Migrants”. Theological Reflections: Eastern European Journal of Theology 21 (2):157-80. https://doi.org/10.29357/2789-1577.2023.21.2.9.