Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chair; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD, Member; Jo A. Birdsell, EdD, Member


administration, communication, department chairs, faculty, higher education, job satisfaction, Leadership studies, perception


With department chairs providing a critical link between faculty and administration, their leadership impacts universities on a broad level. However, chairs often report dissatisfaction with the position and experience rapid turnover. In an effort to help understand the role that communication plays in effective leadership for department chairs, this study provides an empirical test of Gibb's theory of defensive vs. supportive communication. As such, this project investigated the communication and leadership behaviors of university department chairs as evaluated by their faculty members. Specifically, 202 randomly selected faculty members from colleges and universities affiliated with the Council of Independent Colleges, Washington, D.C., comprise the sample. Respondents completed a multi-page survey assessing supportive and defensive communication, Bureaucratic, Machiavellian, and Transformational leadership behaviors of their department chair, and in addition, faculty members evaluated perceived chair effectiveness, their own relational and job satisfaction, as well as organizational commitment. T-tests revealed that more effective chairs utilized all six supportive communication behaviors more and five of six defensive behaviors less than their more negatively evaluated peers. Furthermore, multiple regression procedures explained 53% of the variance in perceived chair effectiveness showing that the supportive behaviors of problem orientation and description and the defensive behaviors of strategy and control were the most powerful predictors. Secondly, a series of regression procedures were used to explore the three types of leadership included in this study; communication behaviors explained 17% of the variance in bureaucracy scores, 69% of the variance in Machiavellianism, and 62% of the variance in Transformational leadership. Lastly, the study explored faculty job satisfaction and commitment using regression models; communication behaviors explained 56% of the variance in faculty job satisfaction and 41% of the variance in organizational commitment. Based on the findings of this study four implications are discussed. The first implication is that communication does indeed matter. The second implication gleaned from this study is that leadership is a communication phenomenon. The third implication discusses the need for policy implementation of training for department chairs. Finally, it is recommended that Gibb's original instrument be utilized in more empirical research to continue to test his concepts validity.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access