Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


Teacher participation in administration; Management--Employee participation; Universities and colleges--Administration--Decision making;


Despite the numerous reference to and importance of the term "participative leadership" in various leadership and organizational theories and practices, the term itself remains ambiguous. While it is often used synonymously with terms such as collaborative, autonomy, influence, participative decision making, collegiality, and team, many people questioned whether these terms are truly synonymous. Moreover, because those who advocate this approach to leadership have many purposes in mind, the practice of participative leadership manifests itself in different forms. Hence, a need exists to clarify as to what practices are actually participative.

This study examines the meaning of the concept in theory and practice. The focus is on clarifying the concept in higher education by eliciting faculty and administrators' understandings of the concept, their rationales for accepting it, and the conditions and ways they desire to see this approach practiced in their organization.

This examination involves an intensive review of the literature, an analysis of institutional documents, and a series of in-depth interviews with six faculty and seven administrators at a Lutheran liberal arts college. The literature review indicated that the complexities of the terms leadership and participation contributed to the different understandings of the concepts. The work of different scholars, based on different paradigms, and different leadership and organizational theories, along with an emphasis of different issues revealed that in certain cases certain characteristics of participation are concealed, while in other instances other characteristics are emphasized.

By studying "participative leadership" from the different participants' perspectives a more holistic understanding emerged of the concept and its implications for administrators, faculty, and the college. Although gender, status, position, and the type of issues raised determine how participants understand and intend to apply the concept, every participant gave different labels, rationales, metaphors, and ways of interpreting and evaluating the concept.

The findings, in general, confirm that many individuals and groups can have many labels, definitions, rationales, and ideals of participative leadership. The factors such as institutional history, mission, and structure and individual differences with respect to gender, position, status, background, interest, beliefs, and values determine the interpretation and implementation of "participative leadership." Theorists and practitioners must consider these factors when they study and attempt to implement participative leadership.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

First Advisor

John K. Smith, Faculty Advisor

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (ix, 517 pages)



File Format