Leadership Styles of African American Women Presidents of Colleges and Universities: Lifting as We Climb

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Annette Craven


Anita Anderson


Judy Beauford


Jessica Kimmel


This multi-method study examined the leadership styles of five African American women presidents o f colleges and universities. Through interviews, questionnaires, and document analysis, this researcher explored the environmental, organizational, and cultural realities of their presidencies, the challenges they face, and their effectiveness as leaders. Transformational leadership, as measured by the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) and Fisher and Koch’s (1996) guidance for an effective presidency provided theoretical frameworks from which the presidents’ effectiveness as leaders was explored. Vision, motivation of their employees, and accomplishment of their goals through the buy-in of others were leadership qualities characteristic among these women. The presidents’ self-ratings and the ratings of their faculty and staff on the MLQ indicated that they were effective transformational leaders. A traditional hierarchical organizational structure was the predominant arrangement of their faculty and staff, although each verbally espoused a participatory form of governance. Their institutions were viable, open, supportive, and student-centered. Race and gender were seen as both disadvantages and advantages in their presidencies but were not issues that plagued their presidency. A formal support network of African American women presidents did not exist among these leaders. Instead, their support systems were made up of one or more close friends or colleagues in whom they could confide. Other themes of significance in the leadership of these presidents were access and excellence, work ethic and balance, development and change, and trust. These factors were discussed and the implications of the findings for policymakers were considered.

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