Document Type



Doctor of Business Administration


Business Administration

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Keith Womer


Ekin Pellegrini

Joseph Rottman


A vast number of higher education leaders and staff have reached the age and service requirements to be eligible for retirement. In the modern workplace, higher education institutions have become more complex and have to adapt to technological advances. As a result of these occurrences, the skill level of employees must keep pace and continue to evolve. Higher education institutions must prepare and sharpen the skills and competencies of employees through leadership development programs.

In this qualitative case study of 24 participants representing three universities and two search firms, the focus was on designing and implementing succession planning and leadership development programs for administrative leaders and staff who work in 4-year public research institutions. Our findings highlight six key institutional characteristics that are important for leadership development programs: making a commitment, dedicating resources, articulating compelling reasons, creating policies and procedures, identifying positions and addressing barriers to implementation. The participants shared three primary ways to develop competencies: formal learning, learning from others, and on-the-job learning. Our findings highlight several positive outcomes for the individual and the organization of leadership development programs. Individuals learn more about the organization, network with others and learn about promotion opportunities. Organizations can benefit by creating a talent pool and lowering expenses related to hiring searches.