Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Kit Kacirek

Committee Member

Kenda Grover

Second Committee Member

Michael T. Miller


adaptive leadership, community college chancellor, community college president, community colleges, leadership development, rural community colleges


The challenge of maintaining strong leadership within many community colleges has been exacerbated by many factors including demographic shifts, therefore, succession planning is one tool used by institutions to offset the challenge of dealing with aging leaders, retirements, and a limited pool of competent applicants. Many senior administrators have and will continue to retire at rapid rates and fewer well-prepared individuals seem to be available or willing to move into these roles. Higher education literature has explored the future of community colleges during this time of change, some examining critical factors for the future of community colleges by asking questions such as: Who will the next leaders be? Will they be committed to the community colleges’ historic mission of ensuring access? How will they be prepared to meet current and future challenges?

This case study was designed to explore the influencers of succession planning and how rural community college leaders identify and develop future leaders. As part of this exploration, the study examined institutional culture and community stakeholders as influencers. Six presidents or chancellors from rural community colleges were chosen for face-to-face interviews using purposive sampling to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways current community college leaders are developing the pipeline of future leaders.

Through qualitative analysis three themes emerged: adaptation and flexibility are primary characteristics needed by future leaders; organizational leadership is influenced by organizational culture and community needs; and leadership development must include broad organizational exposure.

Recommendations stemming from this study are that presidents and chancellors from other states, geographical locations, or urban areas may have different perspectives regarding leadership selection and development. Replication of this study in other states, urban institutions, and institutions with different budget levels would allow comparisons of the findings to further the research on this topic. Additional research also might examine individuals who have been identified as potential leaders and may reveal how future leaders are preparing for leadership opportunities.