In Their Own Words: Stories of Servant Leader Presidents and Chancellors at HBCUS

Ann Linnea Zomerfeld, Fayetteville State University


There are relatively few studies of Historically Black College and University (HBCU) presidents and chancellors, particularly in relation to servant leadership. This is due in part to mistrust resulting from the misrepresentation of Black leaders in past research. Servant leadership, a framework that fits well with HBCU culture, is based on the premise that leaders should prioritize others (i.e. followers) before one’s own needs. By doing so, servant leaders act as advocates who empower people in organizations and communities to grow and to develop. At HBCUs, servant leaders are proponents for their institutions, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners. Unfortunately, American higher education has been engrained with racial biases that create obstacles for HBCU servant leaders. This predicament can be attributed to the social justice framework known as the Critical Race Theory (CRT). In this study, the stories of lived experiences of three purposefully selected HBCU presidents/chancellors were explored from the CRT’s perspective. The qualitative approach using the narrative design interspersed with phenomenology was deemed to be the most appropriate to gather thick descriptions of what it is like to be an HBCU executive servant leader in the current social climate. The themes that emerged from the study (Misrepresented, Excessive Scrutiny, Misconceptions/Overcoming Misconceptions, Building a Culture, and Dealing with Those Who Do Not Agree with Servant Leadership Style) will contribute to the body of knowledge about HBCUs and servant leadership. They will also inform those who seek to pursue careers as presidents/chancellors of HBCUs.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration|Business administration

Recommended Citation

Zomerfeld, Ann Linnea, "In Their Own Words: Stories of Servant Leader Presidents and Chancellors at HBCUS" (2020). ETD Collection for Fayetteville State University. AAI29093226.