Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew Ohlson

Second Advisor

Dr. Laura Boilini

Third Advisor

Dr. Amanda Pascale

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Emi Lenes

Department Chair

Dr. Kristy Sweeney

College Dean

Dr. Daniel Dinsmore


Most research around trauma is focused on negative life consequences. Although limited, there is research that explores the influence of resilience and how some survivors may experience growth after trauma (Kirschman, 2004). Furthermore, research is limited on how trauma influences the leadership style and career trajectories of women who have overcome trauma. A qualitative phenomenological approach was used as the methodological framework to explore the perspectives of women leaders who identify as survivors or overcomers of trauma. The study participants are women leaders in middle management positions to senior-level executives in educational organizations serving middle and high school students.

In-depth interviews were used to explore their lived experiences and uncover themes within the domains of childhood trauma, resilience, and post-traumatic growth. Major themes emerged from the data within each of the domains demonstrating triumph after trauma. The participants revealed an alternative narrative to adverse life outcomes associated with trauma and utilized their lived experiences as motivation to benefit themselves and others. Moreover, they demonstrated resilience and post-traumatic growth in their pursuit to support youth in need by mentoring and advocating for opportunities through education, empathy, and leadership. Additionally, participants demonstrated effective leadership practices within the Bolman and Deal Leadership Typology, with all participants utilizing multiple leadership frames. Participants also reported hyper-independence and workaholism due to their trauma, indicating a need to promote work cultures with additional resources that support leaders and staff who have experienced trauma.

Implications for practice in educational organizations and institutions include trauma-informed leadership training, inclusive work cultures and hiring practices, and promotion of wellness, self-care, and support networks to reduce burnout and enhance the quality of life in the workplace. Implications for practice for at-risk girls and young women include natural mentorship, positive coping mechanisms, and leadership opportunities. The results of this study suggest a need to move from conceptual ideas around this phenomenon to a transformational theory grounded in data from lived experiences informing future prevention, intervention, and leadership initiatives for women and girls.