Date of Award

Spring 4-6-2018

Document Type

Dissertation - University of Massachusetts Global access only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Philip Pendley

Second Advisor

Jasmine Ruys

Third Advisor

Marylou Wilson


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the strengths- based leadership behaviors (problem solving, conflict management, leading change, decision making and planning) of highly successful athletic directors in the California community colleges and to identify the areas in which they feel strongest. An additional purpose of this study was to describe the behaviors of highly successful athletic directors in the California community colleges that help them identify and develop strengths in subordinates and to identify and describe their recommendations for training future community college athletic directors in California.

Methodology: A qualitative, phenomenological methodology was selected for this study regarding the strength-based leadership behavior of highly successful athletic directors. The study utilizes 12 semi-structured face to face, phone or video conferenced internet conducted interviews of athletic directors in the California community colleges.

Findings: Highly successful athletic directors were confident in their leadership styles and felt strong in their ability to lead and utilize the strengths of subordinates. Athletic directors indicated relationship building, collaboration, communication, and vision in their leadership approach with subordinates. Athletic directors demonstrated a high level of confidence, comfort as well as directness in their leadership approach. Athletic directors recognized and utilized the strengths of their subordinates. Training for future athletic directors was strongly recommended.

Conclusions: Athletic directors must possess extensive knowledge about the field of athletics as well as the culture of the community colleges. The athletic directors of today has become more integrated into the campus versus the role in the early years. Athletic directors have more formalized leadership training and diverse backgrounds. Diversity of gender and ethnicity among athletic directors is lacking. Athletic directors in the study practiced a high level of directness and honesty to their leadership style in athletics.

Recommendations: The study would be expanded to community college outside the state of California. Future studies could seek out the perceptions of subordinates to the leadership of athletic directors. Professional development and mentoring strategies should also be developed and promoted among athletic directors. Further examination utilizing the direct themes of Strengths Quest could also improve the understanding of an athletic director’s leadership strengths.