Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Margaret Healy


A qualitative study involving six rural community college presidents was conducted with the intended purpose of understanding what dimensions of leadership emerge from rural community college presidents during times of sustained financial distress. Unexpectedly, the presidents pointed the study's discussions to insights much broader than the issue of leading institutions with decreased budgets and instead presented qualitative data that redirected the researcher to explore what dimensions of rural community college leadership emerge because of the "new reality" of higher education. The new reality describes a higher education environment that--along with significantly decreased funding--includes rapidly changing technology, competition from for-profit institutions, the expanding reaches of e-education, and next-generation students who demand a flexible and sophisticated educational delivery. The researcher discovered five dimensions of leadership, which describe the presidential roles necessary for leading in the new reality of higher education: discerning speculators, impassioned advocates, hope-builders, decisive action-makers, and relationship-architects. A multidimensional leadership model was constructed to demonstrate how the concepts work synergistically.