Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Matthew Delaney

Committee Member

Sherilyn Poole


communication, higher education, leader-member exchange, leadership development, organizational leadership


A phenomenological study focused on Exploring Academic Leadership in Higher Education Through The Lens of Leader-to-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory, Dequies A. Lanier, 2020: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice. Keywords: communication, leadership development, higher education, leader-member exchange, organizational leadership This applied dissertation was designed to explore the communication between higher education leaders and faculty at the department level in the United States at a southeastern higher education institution. The study sought to explore (a) the communication relationship between leaders and followers; (b) commitment to the organization; and (c) suggested communication practices for post-secondary leaders. Higher education departments are faced with challenges concerning leadership development. Although leaders are prepared academically within their practice, there are concerns that leaders are not prepared to address organizational issues (Gigliotti & Ruben, 2017). A review of the literature highlighted that higher education institutions need leaders who are skilled beyond their acquired disciplines to combat strategic problems. In addition, prior research also pointed out that effective communication in higher education between leaders and employees can create a better workflow. The researcher interviewed 10 participants to explore what were the communication experiences and how were they experienced. The principal investigator used the LMX framework to develop interview questions based on the LMX-7 tool (mutual respect, reciprocal trust, and obligation). The interviews were conducted through a virtual platform and later transcribed using Moustakas (1994) eight-step systematic review.

An analysis of the data revealed that higher education governance is sustainable with shared leadership, which aligns with previous scholars. The LMX theory contextualized departmental leadership communication experiences. The overall essence revealed that department chairs are a source of support rather than managers of faculty. Findings from the study showed that departmental leadership is based on respectful communication that promotes partnership to fulfill the academic mission.