Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Deborah Schreiber, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Karen Bolton, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Nicholas Richter, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to identify and describe how exemplary female leaders who hold executive roles in higher education use five principles associated with grit (courage, conscientiousness, long-term goals, resilience, and excellence versus perfection) to accomplish extraordinary results in their organizations. It challenges the notion that academic credentials and intelligence alone drive leadership success, emphasizing the role of grit in extraordinary leadership. This study delves into the barriers women encounter in reaching executive roles, their strategies for overcoming challenges, and how they leverage gritty qualities to facilitate and sustain transformative change. Methodology: A phenomenological design was used to identify and describe how exemplary women who hold executive leadership roles in public colleges and universities use these five principles associated with grit to accomplish extraordinary results within their organizations. Through in-depth descriptions of their lived experiences, interviews, and the examination of artifacts, the aim of this phenomenological study was to reveal participants’ experiences and use of gritty leadership traits in higher education. Findings: Female executive leaders in higher education use the five principles of associated with grit to produce extraordinary results in their organizations. These principles are described in six major findings; the findings were (a) make ethical/moral vii decisions, (b) push past fear to navigate change, (c) promote equity, (d) plan ahead and remain diligent, (e) adjust goals, and (f) focus on “your why.” Conclusions: Three significant conclusions regarding gritty leadership traits of female executive leaders in higher education emerged. The conclusions were (a) courage is fundamental to gritty leadership; (b) conscientiousness, use of long-term goals, and resilience make a strong contribution toward accomplishing extraordinary results, and (c) excellence versus perfection appears to be a nonmotivator of exemplary leaders. Recommendations: Seven recommendations are detailed under implications for action. One recommendation is to replicate this study with male participants for a comparative analysis of grit leadership across genders. Another recommendation is to research the relationship of grit with interest, practice, purpose, and hope, in addition to the impact of two pervasive influencers that includes passion and perseverance.