Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Davis, James

Committee Member

Wiseman, Marty

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Community College Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Educational Leadership


Ethical leadership and ethical reasoning in higher education have been the focus of many concerns as universities and colleges attempt to prepare and train educational leaders, particularly in light of high-profile scandals involving educational leaders. Scholars are increasingly interested in why unethical behavior continues to be problematic among leaders. Unethical behavior continues to exist, even though diverse strategies have been incorporated in programs that prepare prospective leaders for leadership roles (i.e., leadership programs and graduate programs). This study addressed the perceptions among community college leaders regarding ethical leadership and ethical reasoning and what guides ethical decision-making among community college leaders. A qualitative study was conducted using a questionnaire designed specifically for this study. The researcher collected data by conducting face-toace interviews with 15 community college leaders in Alabama. The findings of this research demonstrated that community college leaders believe that ethical leadership is more about who the leader is and what a leader does. Additionally, ethical leadership incorporates fairness, integrity, and concern for others into the leadership style. Ethical reasoning among community college leaders tends to be three dimensional; it is about the situation, institutional obligations, and other institutional endeavors. Participants believe that community college leaders in Alabama relate ethics and decision-making to duty and institutional obligations. Research results indicated that the answer to leaders behaving more ethically lies in the quality of programs that train leaders (i.e., graduate programs and leadership training programs). Participants suggested that programs have improved. However, a more comprehensive and intensive concentration on ethics and ethical behavior should be incorporated into graduate and leadership training programs. Specifically, there should be more opportunities to learn from real life ethical case studies and more role playing scenarios.