The leadership styles and behaviors of African American women executives across multiple economic sectors were studied using an explanatory sequential mixed methods approach. Senior leaders from six of the following sectors Academia, Business, Government, Law, Military, and Nonprofit were surveyed using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to quantitatively assess their leadership styles and behaviors. A subset of survey respondents from each sector were interviewed one-on-one to provide contextual details regarding their MLQ results, and to elicit additional perspectives on leadership styles in general and the development of their individual style in particular. The preponderance of the relatively limited published studies on the leadership attributes of African American women have involved one or more of the following design methodologies: (a) use of qualitative methods, (b) focus on a single sector of the economy, (c) inclusion of a range of leadership positions from middle to senior management within their sample size, and (d) exploration of the obstacles and barriers encountered by the women during their journey to leadership. The purpose of the present research augmented the scope and results of the previous work. MLQ data from a numerically significant sample of executives, coupled with the interview narratives, potentially provided the necessary quantitative and qualitative underpinnings to support and/or reshape findings from the past studies. Expanding the scope to include leaders from different sectors furnished insight into potential sector-specific influences on leadership styles; and tightening of the sampling process to include only senior-level leaders in organizations reduced experimental variability and insured a pool of participants with extensive leadership experience. The obstacles and barriers facing African American women leaders received the most attention in prior studies and therefore is not a key focus of this work. However, salient information gleaned from interviews concerning their impact on leadership styles have been reported. It is expected that the data and information from this study has yielded a more comprehensive evaluation of the leadership styles and behaviors of these African American women executives in particular, and potentially enabled meaningful comparisons with previously published findings on such leadership characteristics in general.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; African American women executives -- Psychology; African American women in the professions; Leadership in women -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder-Ramirez, June;