Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Researchers have consistently found that women have lower leader self-efficacy (LSE) than men, despite being equally capable as leaders. This is problematic because LSE is associated with many benefits that support the development and enactment of leadership. Despite the importance of LSE, there is a dearth of research on the construct, particularly in the higher education context. This grounded theory study utilized semi-structured interviews with 12 undergraduate students who identified as females or women to explore how they developed LSE. Findings were related with four core concepts that were woven throughout the various categories of themes that comprised the grounded theory. Those core tenets are: (a) throughout their lives, people receive messages about leaders and leadership from societal norms, institutions, experiences, and interactions; (b) people and experiences mediate the effects of these messages; (c) LSE is shaped by internal processes; and (d) multiple identities influence the development of LSE. Participants successfully built LSE through receiving encouragement and affirmation, and engaging in leadership development experiences. In addition, they were able to disrupt dominant narratives that had the potential to have a detrimental impact on their LSE.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.