Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership

First Advisor

John Harrison


Much attention in occupational advancement has been devoted to leadership studies, leadership literature, leadership trainings, leadership styles, and leadership strategies; however, the leadership dynamic is merely one side of the organizational coin. On the less-addressed flipside is the topic of followership. This Grounded Theory (GT) study addresses the perception of the role of followership in the development of female leaders in higher education. The study uses semi-structured interviews with 10 females in higher education administration to gather data concerning the perceived role followership has played in the professional development of the female administrators. Through GT qualitative data analysis procedures, interview data was reviewed, coded, and analyzed for emergent trends in perceptions. Analysis produces three core categories: Follower Influence, Sponsorship Relationship, and Advancement Opportunities. Findings allow for the development of a theory grounded in the data. This theory is called the Protégé Advancement Theory, which states that followers who exhibit exceptional effort, abilities, and performance are able to exercise upward influence, thereby securing a sponsor who transforms the follower into a protégé by developing a mutually beneficial, professional relationship in which the sponsor fuels protégé professional advancement while the protégé continually delivers exceptional performance.