Graduate School of Business


Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL)


Betty Ahmed


distributed, leadership, West Virginia, shared, empowerment, culture


Leadership Studies


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how public higher education institutions in West Virginia can leverage distributed leadership to influence culture and improve student outcomes. The general problem to be addressed was the lack of distributed leadership in academic organizations creating disparate hierarchical groups resulting in the inability of academic institutions to successfully implement changes that improve student outcomes. The outcome of the research was to contribute to the body of knowledge and reduce the gaps in literature by expanding on the understanding how leaders fail to apply distributed leadership, behaviors that support or fail to support distributed leadership, how student initiatives differ from other change initiatives, and what elements position institutions for success in implementing changes to improve student outcomes. The study included twenty, in-person, one-on-one interviews resulting in six discovered themes. The themes combined with existing literature to identify implementation strategies promoting professional development, empowered decision-making lower in the organizational hierarchy, and feedback systems. The conclusion of this study suggests any industry can benefit from improving general leadership practice through the intentional development of future leaders. Organizations benefit from empowering employees, delegating decision making, and improving desired skills to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the organization.