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Vol. 42 (2023): Advancing Women in Leadership Journal

Thriving and Striving: The Paradox of Leading and Following for Women Mid-level Administrators in the Community College

October 25, 2021


In this qualitative study, I explored the meaning that ten mid-level women administrators ascribe to the experience of being both a leader and a follower within the community college sector. Previous research indicates that mid-level women administrators are under-valued as leaders and followers despite their capacity and influential connectivity up, down, and across the organizational chart. Participants discussed their experiences through in-depth, semi-structured interviews and described the perceived effects of those experiences on their leadership and followership practices. Three overarching themes emerged from the transcript analysis of the narratives: leading with purpose; complications of following; and navigating an adverse work environment. Implications from the findings suggest that community college leaders at all levels will benefit from shared leadership professional development, interrogation of implicit gender bias embedded with the institution, and the reduction and removal of race-based microaggressions among faculty, staff, and administrators. By understanding the leading and following experiences of women in mid-level administrative positions in the community college, this study contributes to a broader inclusion of leadership beyond the privileging of senior-level positions.