Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Leadership by the team: Perceptions within nonprofit membership organizations' boards of directors
by Shaefer, Christine H., Ph.D., Marian University, 2015, 163; 3714103
Abstract (Summary)

Through an explanatory, sequential mixed methods design with a constructivist frame, this research provides one of the first looks at full range leadership behaviors as shared among directors and explores the group dynamics at work within boards of nonprofit membership organizations. A sample of such organizations in one Midwestern state resulted in chief staff officer participation ( n = 7) in both a custom-designed online survey and a telephone interview, and director participation (n = 45) in a separate online survey, consisting primarily of the questions included in the Team Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Avolio & Bass, 1996), as well as telephone interviews with a sub-set of directors (n = 18).

Overall, participants reported high satisfaction with the leadership of their boards and perceptions of high board effectiveness. Directors cited transformational leadership behaviors, most predominantly idealized attributes, inspirational motivation, and idealized behaviors, as those their boards exhibit most often.

Quantitative data analyses resulted in insignificant correlations between the level of agreement among directors within each board—high in each participating organization—and both the board’s frequency of unanimous votes and the directors’ satisfaction with the leadership of the board. Qualitative data provided a more nuanced understanding of within board agreement with directors and chief staff officers seeking to increase the amount of questioning occurring during board deliberations.

Statistically, ratings of directors’ shared leadership behaviors, satisfaction with the leadership of the board, and perceived board effectiveness did not differ between directors and chief staff officers. In the majority of participating organizations, the chief staff officer does not hold a formal position on the board, but interview data surfaced a gate-keeper role for the chief staff officer, largely determining what warrants the board’s time and attention, and filtering the information that reaches the directors.

In building their board teams, the majority of participating organizations have competitive elections only sometimes or never, yet the majority of chief staff officers reported it is not difficult to find qualified board members. Of interview participants, both directors and chief staff officers ( n = 25), 88% stated their boards operate well as teams.

Both directors and chief staff officers in this study acknowledged influences of group dynamics on their efforts to lead their organizations, and the challenges to developing their boards as teams resulting from infrequent in-person meetings and the perception of limited time available from directors. However, directors expressed interest in strengthening their teams by getting to know their fellow directors better.

The meanings chief staff officers and directors in this study made of their boards and their roles in them offer a view into the phenomenon of nonprofit membership organizations’ boards as teams, a largely unexplored area of nonprofit research to date.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bugenhagen, Marilyn J.
Commitee: Innes, Donna, Moss, Sharon E.
School: Marian University
Department: Doctoral Studies
School Location: United States -- Wisconsin
Source: DAI-A 76/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Management, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Associations, Board of directors, Group dynamics, Leadership, Nonprofits, Shared leadership
Publication Number: 3714103
ISBN: 978-1-321-91171-8
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