Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD, Member; Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD, Member


Leadership, leader development, leader competencies, local government, leadership development methods


How do local government leaders perceive the development of their leadership competencies and the methods they have used to acquire competencies to meet on-the-job challenges in a city context? There have been few attempts to document leaders’ perceptions of the competencies they need or how they get developed; however, the critical and ubiquitous role of city government demands that we increase understanding of these crucial issues. Not only does a majority of the world’s population already live in urban areas (i.e., areas in which competent local governmental activity is required), but this percentage is forecasted to increase from 55% to 68% by 2050. Also, the nature of local government is evolving and, as a result, there has been renewed attention on local governments and the practices of local governmental leaders. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to generate knowledge about (a) what specific competencies support leadership practice in one city government, and (b) how competencies are developed. More specifically, this study explored city government leaders’ perceptions of (a) the challenges faced and the competencies needed to address contemporary on-the-job issues, and (b) the methods that have been employed to acquire the required competencies by leaders in one city government.

This study employed a case study/cross case analysis research design and included 12 participants in senior administrative positions in a large, metropolitan city in California. The cases were developed through semi-structured interviews and narrative analysis. A cross-case analysis procedure was employed in the second phase of the analysis to generate aggregate answers to the research questions driving the study.

The findings suggest that the local government leaders who participated in the study relied on competencies related to relationships, knowledge, and strategic processes acquired largely through informal methods. Also, in some cases, participants reported that they relied on unique competencies or methods that they perceived as important for their practice.

This research is significant because no previous study of this sort focused directly on the perceptions of local government leaders. The study generated recommendations about developing competencies when formal training may not be effective.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies