Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD, Director; Mary W. Scherr, PhD; Trudy J. Sopp, PhD


Carlsbad (California), empowerment, Grounded theory, leadership relationships, Leadership studies, local governmental organizations, management style, public administration, Scottsdale (Arizona)


The purpose of this study is to develop a better understanding of the empowerment processes operating within organizations and to theorize about the relationship between empowerment and leadership. The study focuses on empowerment in two local governmental organizations--the City of Carlsbad, California and the City of Scottsdale, Arizona. The research design combined the key characteristics of naturalistic inquiry with the analytical approach of grounded theory methodology. The researcher interviewed the members of both management teams and spent time as a participant observer. The data were synthesized into a conceptual model--a picture of the empowerment practices within these two organizations. The model includes the five aspects which influence organizational members' sense of empowerment: contextual, organizational, managerial, personal, and interpersonal. The majority of the practices which contributed to a sense of empowerment were processes of the "good management" paradigm: increasing feelings of self-worth and efficacy, providing opportunities for involvement, expanding decision-making authority, and inspiring commitment to organizational goals. Inhibitors included: a traditional authoritarian management style, ego needs of managers involved, ambiguity that is created as a result of shared power, time commitment required, conflict that is a natural by-product of critical thinking and dialogue, and normal changes and crises that confront an organization. The good management practices, which have sustained the two cities over time, provided fertile ground in which leadership relationships emerged. Leadership emerged when, from time to time, substantive changes were called for. The city managers shifted the power of their position to a shared power. The management teams together looked at the challenges the cities faced, thought together about the opportunities that exist, and challenged each other to think beyond the status quo--they developed a shared vision and commitment to change. If empowerment is mobilizing people's beliefs, desires, abilities, and opportunities to exercise influence and to create change; and if leadership is a relationship among leaders and followers based on mutual influence who intend substantive changes that reflect their common purposes; then participation in a leadership relationship is one of the most powerful sources of empowerment for an individual or collective.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access