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Decision Style of College Presidents at Servant-Leadership Oriented Universities: A Qualitative Study

Jean-Paul Spagnolo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the decision style of college presidents at servant-leadership oriented institutions of higher education in an increasingly disruptive and competitive environment. To date little is known about how the decision style of chief executive officers at colleges or universities influences planning, culture, and governance at institutions of higher learning. To address the void in scholarly literature, this study used a phenomenological approach of qualitative research design. Five college presidents were interviewed from colleges or universities that have a public commitment to the promotion of servant-leadership outcomes, as evidenced in their mission, vision, and values statements. The in depth semi-structured interviews provided rich data.Ten key themes emerged from the data: (a) college presidents seek consultation and involve multiple stakeholders when making decisions; (b) uncertainty and ambiguity play a role in decision style; (c) reliance on culture, mission, and values; (d) college presidents value decisiveness; (e) consideration of the impact on stakeholders; (f) trust in the experience and expertise of others; (g) decision style may not change as much as evolve over time; (h) the role of communication in decision-making; (i) external issues pressure decision style and the decision-making process; and (j) stress impacts decisions. Practical implications and future directions for decision style research are discussed.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Higher Education Administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Spagnolo, Jean-Paul, "Decision Style of College Presidents at Servant-Leadership Oriented Universities: A Qualitative Study" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28257875.