Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Roz Doctorow

Committee Member

Joseph Trivisonno


Developmental Programs, Government Employees, Leadership, Organizational Development, Promotion (Occupational)


Ascending into the executive level of an organization can be considered a crowning achievement in one’s profession. It is usually a position in which those most qualified could ultimately arrive. Yet, some organizations, particularly within the U.S. federal government, claim that coveted executive positions are remaining vacant or are not being filled as readily as has traditionally occurred. Even with programs available for a person to become more qualified for advancement, the positions remain unfilled. The level at which employees traditionally qualify for executive positions is the level at which fewer seem to be applying for those positions. In other words, it appears that potential executive candidates are refusing to advance into executive vacancies, which is often referred to as the progression paradox. An organization unable to promote employee advancement into executive vacancies could potentially inhibit its own progression.The ideas of position qualification and position refusal are two concepts that have not been studied collectively nor received the level of scrutiny that is perhaps needed to answer the fundamental question: Why are gaps in executive-level positions not being filled as expected? Therefore, the researcher utilized grounded-theory analysis to develop a theory into whether adequately defined capabilities freely and clearly enable employee advancement into executive leadership levels. This study delved into the literature and reviewed several inquiries made into the personal perspectives of employees at various levels throughout a Department of Defense agency regarding constructs that could affect ascension into executive leadership ranks. The researcher then built on the findings from these inquiries to create a model of alignment with an organization’s core purpose. Essentially, this research offers an increased understanding into the mask of ambiguity that inhibits progression and identifies the elements needed to assist qualified employees who are refusing to advance into executive vacancies.

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