Robbie Palmer Hertneky, Ph.D. is a 2008 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Alan E. Guskin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Sandra Cheldelin, Ph.D., External Reader


leadership, self identity, college presidents, higher education, women, human females, narrative

Document Type


Publication Date



The purpose of this research study was to explore the concept of leadership self-identity in a particular population of formal leaders—women college presidents. Using narrative inquiry, the research examined the following: how these women describe and define themselves as leaders, what personal attributes they believe allow them to be leaders, their past and future career intentions, how their relationships with others influence their leadership self-identity, and the stories they tell about themselves and leadership. Participants were asked questions designed to reflect their core identity and personal narrative, and to describe their career and relationships. Common themes that emerge include: how they work with others, themselves as leaders, professional intentions and planning, presidential longevity, mentors and mentoring, their networks of support and the importance of communication and language. A clear picture of the leadership self-identity of this group of women college presidents emerges from the study and their understanding of themselves as leaders reveals the complexity of leadership. Leadership self-identity develops as a holistic concept that integrates five critical components: authenticity, leading through relationships, composing a life, balance, and learning. Only the self-understanding inherent in character and authenticity can enable a potential leader to integrate the components of leadership self-identity. As such, it presents significant implications for how leaders are identified, selected, educated, and trained. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,