Dee Giffin Flaherty, Ph.D. is a 2006 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Carolyn Kenny, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Martha Ezzell, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Al Guskin, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Jack Martin, Ph.D., External Reader


self-disclosure, leaders, hermeneutic phenomenology, self-awareness, communication, gender

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Leadership is a personal process that involves creating communities and influencing change through relationships of influence. This research explores one aspect of leadership, that of self-disclosing. The self-disclosure of leaders affects all aspects of leadership. Self-disclosure is personal in that people’s voices are unique and come from their sense of self. The appropriate use of self-disclosure can facilitate increased self-awareness, and greater mental and physical health. Leaders can influence change by the strategic sharing of their disclosures. Communities are built when people can identify with leaders stories and be guided toward a shared vision. The purpose of this study is to explore the issues of self-disclosure and gender in the context of leadership. What is the leader’s experience of influence relationships? What is the leader’s experience of self-disclosing? Are the leader’s experiences of self-disclosing influenced by gender? This research is grounded in multidisciplinary literature reviews on the topics of sex and gender, gender communication, self-disclosure and leadership. A methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology was used to explore the essence of the experience of self-disclosing. I implemented a pyramid plan for in-depth interviewing in which I began with six participants, and continued to probe at deeper levels of consciousness with three of these. This research fills an important gap in the literature. Current literature on the subject of self-disclosure is primarily quantitative in design. This qualitative approach captures the voices of the leaders and allows for congruency in that their stories become the center of the research about their stories. Amplifying the voices of women leaders and describing the female perspective are important in a culture where women have not always been heard. Current leadership literature refers indirectly to self-disclosure, but does not describe it specifically or directly. The purpose of this research is to move deeply into the leader’s gendered experience of self-disclosing and to describe the essence of that experience. The electronic version of the dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,