Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Charol Shakeshaft


This qualitative study utilized a phenomenological approach to discover how African American female superintendents in Virginia integrated spirituality into their leadership practices. The struggles and experiences of these women as a population have been uniquely marginalized by both race and gender. These distinct influences have resulted in the development of generations of women who freely proclaim to be grounded in the spiritual. To investigate this topic, data were collected in face-to-face interviews conducted on site in the school division where each superintendent was employed. The data were analyzed using a modified version of Moustakas as proposed by Creswell (2007). Once the interviews were coded for themes, two distinctive themes emerged regarding the leadership practices of these women and the integration of spirituality. Theme One addressed the characteristics of the participants’ spiritual belief systems and their relationship with God according to how they conceptualized the abstract concept of spirituality and used it in their professional decision-making processes. Theme Two delineated more precisely how these women used their personal beliefs to lead from a spiritual center. The discoveries that surfaced via this study add greater validation to Benefiel’s (2005) theory pertaining to spiritual leadership, which emphasizes the actions of the leader who relies on spiritual leadership. This leader-centered perspective contrasts with Fry and Whittington (2005), who suggested that spiritual leadership cannot be understood without also considering the perspectives of those being led. In summary, this study found that each of these women led from a spiritual center and professed to practice spiritual leadership. In other words, they made and carried out decisions that resulted in the fostering of successful school divisions without compromising their biblical principles. They believed that a leader must be more than a managerial or an instructional leader. A leader must lead from within, while at the same time considering the affective aspects of leadership that encompass the whole person and the needs of the entire organization.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011