Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

Angela Carter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Natasha Croom, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Boettcher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tony Cawthon, Ph.d.


The underrepresentation of Black women in executive leadership positions at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) persists, despite their high-achieving credentials and degrees. However, crises such as the racial reckoning and the pandemic have revealed an increase in the number of Black women called upon to lead under risky circumstances, a phenomenon referred to as the glass cliff theory. In this study, I examine the leadership strategies and behaviors of Black women executives at PWIs during these critical periods. Specifically, I explore how these leaders make meaning of their adverse experiences and crucible leadership moments and whether these experiences equipped them for leadership during the racial reckoning and pandemic. Utilizing a basic interpretive inquiry methodology, I conducted semi-structured interviews with six Black women holding executive-level leadership positions at PWIs. The findings shed light on the challenges faced by these women, including sabotage, discrimination, and political complexities. Despite these obstacles, the participants demonstrated remarkable resilience in overcoming adversity. The study uncovers transformed and elevated leadership approaches, including strategies such as avoiding the glass cliff, employing strategic approaches, setting boundaries, and embracing authenticity. The insights gained from this research provide a deeper understanding of the unique leadership approaches employed by Black women executives at PWIs during times of crisis. Moreover, there are implications for fostering greater diversity and inclusion in executive positions within higher education institutions. By acknowledging the experiences and strategies of Black women leaders, organizations can better support their advancement, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and inclusive leadership landscape.



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