Date of Award

Spring 4-20-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Jeffrey Lee

Second Advisor

Patricia Davis

Third Advisor

Jalin B. Johnson


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe how exemplary nonprofit human service CEOs lead their organizations through the lens of Grenny et al.’s (2013) six sources of influence.

Methodology: This phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of 15 nonprofit human service CEOs and how they lead as influencers. Study participants were CEOs of basic needs organizations drawn from the Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders® award recipients from 2015-2020. The researcher collected qualitative data by utilizing an interview protocol and examining organizational artifacts.

Findings: Analysis of the qualitative data from 15 nonprofit human service CEOs yielded 14 major findings. The findings were divided into six domains according to Grenny et al.’s (2013) six sources of influence. Data analysis demonstrated how these leaders apply influence so that staff members are consistently motivated and have the skills required to perform to the best of their ability.

Conclusions: Based on the data, the study featured 10 conclusions that focused on the need for leaders to develop a growth mindset and employ behaviors that inspire staff and others within their circle of influence to achieve organizational goals. The study further underscored that when leaders used influence to create a culture of empowerment and trust, innovation and collaboration thrived. Additionally, it was concluded that study participants consciously and unconsciously applied more than one of the six sources of influence to achieve desired results.

Recommendations: In an era when human service resources are finite and employee turnover is high, there is an imperative to understand better how nonprofit professionals achieve organizational goals by using influence. Leadership programs and professional membership organizations should offer trainings that deepen awareness about leading as an influencer. It would be beneficial for board members and recruitment specialists to hire leaders with proven ability to motivate and inspire staff and stakeholders. To glean holistic perspectives of how nonprofit influencers lead in a variety of missions, the researcher recommends further research be conducted with leaders of color leading nonprofit organizations in marginalized communities, nonprofit leaders located in rural settings, nonprofit professionals engaged in leading coalitions, and social workers with leadership responsibilities.