Historically, if Saudi women chose to work outside the realm of wife and mother, they had few occupational options. However, the last few years witnessed an increase enrollment of women in senior management and leadership positions in the public and private sectors in Saudi Arabia (Alahmadi, 2011). Saudi women are exposed to different leadership opportunities that were not available to generations before them. Since they are increasingly achieving leadership positions, courage holds even greater importance for women, and by extension, influences how women perceive the role of courage in pursuit of leadership within Saudi society. Literature pertaining to Saudi female leadership is nearly nonexistent and the role of courage as a leadership attribute for successful female leadership is in very short supply. To fill these gaps in the literature, this study explored the drivers and/or restrainers of Saudi female leaders especially considering the role of courage. It sought to explain how courage helped Saudi women in achieving leadership positions, and how it contributed to their overall success. An exploratory qualitative method using a virtual interview process was used with the aim of gaining insight into the experiences of 10 successful Saudi female leaders. Using a thematic analysis approach, five emergent themes were identified: factors influencing success, challenges, courage definition, courage in action, and recommendations for other women. Interpretation of the study’s findings resulted in three conclusions: (a) the Saudi culture has a great influence, both positively and negatively, on the female participants’ leadership success, (b) challenges faced by the female participants are common among women from different societies, and (c) courage plays a pivotal role in the lives of the female participants and is a necessary attribute to achieve leadership success. Future recommendations include investigating factors of the Saudi organizational culture that continue to inhibit females from assuming leadership roles; seeking perceptions of Saudi males regarding Saudi female leadership in the country; and also exploring characteristics of Saudi family life that supports or inhibits female success as leaders.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Saudi Arabians -- Women -- Employment; Courage -- Psychological aspects; Women in leadership -- Saudi Arabia -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;