Date of Award

Spring 2-25-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Douglas DeVore, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Julie Hadden, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Paulette Koss, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this mixed-methods case study was to explore and describe the coping skills used to overcome 9 behavioral characteristics by gay men serving in civic or nonprofit leadership roles who are identified as experiencing the impostor phenomenon (IP) by the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS; Clance, 1985).

Methodology: This study used a mixed-methods, descriptive case study approach to collect both quantitative and qualitative data about 14 study participants. Each completed the 20-question CIPS that represented the quantitative strand of the study prior to an interview that included 10 semistructured interview questions designed to collect rich, descriptive data. The purpose for conducting the case study was to explore and describe the individual experiences of gay male leaders who have moderate to intense IP experiences.

Findings: Overall, 2 to 4 common themes shared by the participants per characteristic emerged, including focusing on values, appreciating challenges, presenting an authentic self, and following personal instincts. In addition, identifying internal motivational factors, reviewing lessons learned, and realigning personal thought processes represented the intentional approaches participants described as critical coping skills.

Conclusions: These findings led the researcher to conclude that individuals experiencing IP characteristics should carefully consider potential work environments, develop strategies for evaluating their personal and professional values, and establish clear expectations and steps they plan to take prior to embarking upon new challenges. In addition, the results suggest that organizations and clinicians should focus on the role they play in raising awareness of the IP while assisting individuals who typically experience it without the benefit of knowing how to incorporate successful coping strategies.

Recommendations: This research should be replicated in other parts of the United States and internationally. Future research should include different comparative studies that consider other members of the LGBT community, compare sexual minorities and their heterosexual counterparts, examine other leaders and those in support roles, and compare leaders in nonprofit versus for-profit environments. Finally, a replication of this study should include full disclosure of the IP construct to its participants ahead of data collection in order to explore alternative coping strategies that may emerge.