Jane C. Felt


Due to deeply held gender roles and cultural norms in organizations, women leaders struggle in their ability to lead authentically (Cook, 2012). Leading with authenticity encourages women to bring their whole self to work, providing them with the flexibility and freedom to exhibit their best qualities in the workplace. Authentic leadership serves to inspire women to believe in themselves and their abilities, enabling women to foster relationships and transparency that can transform work environments and corporate cultures to become more accepting of individual differences. This study investigated the leadership experiences of professional women across multiple generations. Data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews with 15 women leaders. Leaders were asked 12 interview questions aligned to five research questions. The questions focused on the past and current leadership experiences. Key findings of the study revealed 64 themes. As a result of the study, authenticity was identified as a significant contributor toward the success of women in leadership roles. Being true to self and being genuine was the most important factor of authenticity in both a women’s professional and personal life. The barriers and challenges that women face include bridging the gap between the male stereotype of leadership and the socially accepted female gender role. These challenges present obstacles for women leaders who attempt to embrace and emulate their true selves at work. Sometimes at the risk of losing their job. Women depend upon their faith, prayer, and practice of reflection and meditation to help them lead with authenticity. These strategies along with self-awareness help women to develop the courage needed to continue moving forward in their leadership practice. Success for authentic women leaders is defined by their career and the ability to perform personally fulfilling work. Success is also defined by the leader’s ability to develop and maintain strong relationships with family and friends while also helping others. Recommendations for aspiring women leaders include most significantly the ability to be a leader of self, possessing high self-awareness and building self-confidence. These recommendations are followed by a practice of facing fears and embracing authenticity early in life and career.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Leadership in women; Authenticity (Philosophy)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Madjidi, Farzin;