Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, Ph.D., Chair; Cheryl A. Getz, Ed.D., Member; Kalpana Shankar, Ph.D., Member; Lee Williams, Ph.D., Member


Academic Libraries, Toxic Leadership, Leadership, Libraries


Toxic leadership has yet to be officially recognized as an area of inquiry in the field of library and information studies. Indeed, the literature on academic libraries is only now beginning to address the topic. None of this should be surprising because leadership, in general, continues to be an under-discussed topic in the library and information studies literature.

The topic of leadership, of course, is the central theoretical construct of the leadership studies field, and, in this field, toxic leadership has been systematically studied and discussed. This literature reveals the negative consequences of having a toxic leader as the head of an organization. It suggests that toxic leadership can lead to a decrease in morale and lower productivity in the organization, as well as stress and burnout for an organization’s members. This study, which employed a survey design, documented that the potential consequences of toxic leadership exist in all types of academic libraries across the United States.

Of the 492 survey respondents in this study, in fact, 65.4% indicated they had experienced toxic leadership in their professional careers. In addition, an analysis of the answers to the open-ended response questions on the survey—i.e., questions that provided an opportunity for librarians to reveal as much or as little information as they felt comfortable with revealing regarding their toxic leadership experiences—suggested there are five general types of toxic leadership existing in academic libraries: abusive supervision, negligent/laissez-faire leadership, authoritarian leadership, toxic leadership related to an institution’s culture, and leadership provided by leaders who were perceived to be mentally ill.

The results of this study contribute to the scant academic library leadership literature and provide academic institutions’ upper administration, especially academic library administrators, with an understanding of how toxic leadership can entrench itself within the academic library setting. It also provides additional evidence that toxic leadership of all types can have a detrimental impact on those who work in and are served by an organization.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.