Organization, Information and Learning Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-13-2017


Case study research was conducted to explore the existence of shared leadership in a social enterprise board of directors to identify the common characteristics and traits of board members, and the factors that facilitated or inhibited the development of the board as a shared leadership team. Creating and sustaining a committed and involved board of directors that works as a team were key challenges for the social enterprise board. Current research on shared leadership and the governance of social enterprises and nonprofits provided the conceptual framework for the researcher to develop and test two proposed models in a case study situated in a social enterprise.

Purposive sampling bounded the study to one social enterprise board of directors located in Southwestern region of the United States. The first model, Developing Shared Leadership in a Nonprofit Board, elucidated the researcher’s postulation of the elements necessary for shared leadership to exist in a board of directors. The second model, Best Practices of Nonprofit Boards and the Process of Developing Shared Leadership, was constructed from the benchmarks found in the current literature for board structure and composition by which the researcher measured the readiness of the social enterprise board to act as a team and share leadership.

Using a case study design, data were collected from triangulated sources that included interviews, observations, a focus group, and archival documents. Two iterations of coding comprised of first and second cycles were conducted utilizing established coding methods. The constant comparison process was applied, the resulting codes were categorized and subcategorized, and the quantities of occurrences were calculated to make inferences about the emerging themes. The results of the case study and the use of shared leadership in a social enterprise board of directors were presented using a linear-analytic approach.

The findings from the thematic analysis showed that the important antecedents of shared leadership were present in the social enterprise board. The data collected from the case study were compared to the best practices found in the literature review and the findings indicated the social enterprise board had achieved many of them. Important qualities and characteristics of shared leadership were present in the board members such as trust and transparency. Impediments to shared leadership were identified as the infrequency of board meetings and unfamiliarity with other board members which impacted board member relationships, group cohesion, and the board’s ability to act as a team.

Two models were created by the researcher in response to the findings: Dynamic Elements of Shared Leadership in a Social Enterprise Board, and Fundamental Building Blocks for Successful Boards. These models have practical implications for social enterprises and nonprofit organizations that can be replicated and tested in future research. This case study research identified the key factors contributing to the social enterprise’s board performance, that may enable social enterprises and other nonprofit boards to derive the benefits of cultivating and sustaining shared leadership.

Degree Name

Organization, Information and Learning Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Organization, Information & Learning Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Patricia E. Boverie

Second Committee Member

Mark Emmons

Third Committee Member

Jacqueline N. Hood

Fourth Committee Member

Jeanne M. Logsdon




Nonprofit boards, social enterprise boards, shared leadership

Document Type