Date of Award

Spring 4-4-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Patricia Clark White, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Douglas P. DeVore, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

James Cox, Ph.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this thematic, mixed-methods case study was to identify and describe the behaviors that exemplary female chief executive officers (CEOs) use to create personal and organizational meaning for themselves and their followers through meaning-making domains: character, vision, relationships, wisdom, and inspiration. Additionally, it was the purpose of this study to determine the degree of importance to which followers perceived behaviors within the meaning-making domains.

Methodology: The exploratory mixed-methods case study was selected to gather insight into the behaviors of four female chief executive officers through interviews. Twelve of their employees were asked to complete an online survey. The results of both the qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys were then compared for triangulation.

Findings: The qualitative findings of this research suggest that exemplary female CEOs demonstrate behaviors from each of meaning-making domains (character, vision, relationships, wisdom, and inspiration), with character and vision as most significant to meaning making. Followers concurred with their quantitative input, finding the domains of character and relationships to be the most significant in creating meaning within the organization.

Conclusions: The study’s findings support the need for CEOs to integrate behaviors from each of the meaning-making domains (character, vision, relationships, wisdom, and inspiration) in order to create meaning for themselves and their followers. CEOs wishing to develop behaviors across these domains should make decisions based on a moral compass, invest in strategic planning, as well set aside time for reflection and self-development.

Recommendations: There is a need for further exploration in this area of study. Replication studies could identify differing populations, exemplary male CEOs, or look at other geographical locations. For a deeper look into this topic, a pure qualitative design approach is suggested. The 21 emerging themes also need a deeper understanding and each could contribute to its own study. Finally, it is highly advisable that studies be conducted in order to add to the body of knowledge on meaning-making leadership.