This mixed methods study gained understanding of the values and leadership characteristics of CEOs and executives in finance, entrepreneurial organizations, and military generals. While Ledbetter (2005) provided the theoretical framework, this study builds on her work and explores how executives' values and leadership styles shape corporate culture and create results. A sample of 13 leaders participated in 1-hour interviews, the Rokeach Values Survey, and the Clifton StrengthsFinder instrument. Using purposeful sampling, the subjects were selected for being values-based leaders, defined as leaders whose actions are congruent with their espoused values of integrity, focusing on the good of the whole, and making a positive impact on others (Uribe, 2012). The top 5 terminal values (what they would like at the end of their life) were family, health, spirituality, wisdom, freedom, and self-respect. The top 5 instrumental values (those they use along their leadership journey) were honesty, courage, being responsible, capable, helpful, and loving. The top values were intrinsic in nature, whereas the following bottom values were extrinsic in nature: social recognition, a world of beauty, being self-controlled, clean, and obedient. These leaders were found to be good followers; they allowed others to provide honest, courageous feedback about their path. Their motivation to lead included creating value for others, impacting change, mentoring others, personal achievement, purpose in life, and taking care of others. This suggests a servant-leader attitude, revealed during the interviews. The highest signature themes (strengths) were Strategic, Achiever, Relator, Learner, Activator, and Arranger. These strengths were best correlated with family security, honesty, inner harmony, forgiveness, and the focus on a comfortable life. A comparison was made based on ethnicity (Caucasian versus Other) and gender. It was revealed that having a higher purpose, belief, or faith is important in the quest for values-based leadership. From this research, a strategic collaborative decision-making process emerged, which includes high potential leaders, along with key stakeholders learning complex decision making, while the executive leader is the final decision maker. Implications of this study include the need for assisting military leaders reentering the civilian workforce, and the importance of rising leaders in all 3 areas.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Leadership -- Moral and ethical aspects; Organizational effectiveness

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rosensitto, Michelle;