Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Baber, Ceola Ross


Much of the research related to the leadership of women relates to development through mentorship and the gaps or disparities that exists throughout various fields and disciplines. In the United States, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership, and those in leadership continue to struggle to find the balance between their work and lives. Not only are women having different leadership experiences from their male counterparts, they are also experiencing various life events that impact their experiences as leaders, as well as the spiritual and psycho-social dimensions of their lives. The spiritual identity of women leaders who work outside of a religious context has not been explored, thus creating a gap, not only in the research, but also in the leadership practice and development of women. This dissertation examines, through a constructivist lens, the meaning that women leaders in academic medicine ascribe to their stressful life events and spiritual identity and how they connected to impact their leadership experiences. The use of constructivist grounded theory methodology resulted in the conceptualization of the Illumined Leadership Spirit. The Illumined Leadership Spirit (ILS) is a framework for understanding (a) the connection between stressful life events and spiritual identity and (b) its influences on the leadership experience and journey. ILS applies to women leaders who have embraced the impact of their spiritual identity within the milieu of their lives and leadership experiences.