Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award



Document Type



Organizational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Kristin Koetting O’Byrne

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Sara Salkil

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Peter Williams


As the role of academic leadership has grown more complex, particularly as leaders are increasingly tasked with leading educational innovation initiatives, building faculty trust has become an essential task for chief academic officers (CAOs). Due to the general lack of research into this role, though, little is known about how they understand and approach building faculty trust. The purpose of this qualitative, single, holistic case study was to understand how executive academic administrators at private colleges approach building and maintaining trust with their faculty in general and also through educational innovation and what specific challenges they have identified in these efforts. By using a social constructionist paradigm, semistructured 90-minute interviews were conducted with a semipurposive sample of six CAOs selected from within the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York. The respondents answered open-ended questions concerning how they define trust in leaders, what specific actions they have taken to build trust among their faculty, and what challenges they have faced in trust-building. They were then asked these same questions but specifically within the context of educational innovation initiatives they have overseen. The interviews were transcribed and coded in three passes, first using predetermined codes related to trust and innovation, then using process coding, and a final pass using values coding. The findings indicated that respondents recognized that trust was essential for effective faculty leadership and that while trust was not often built intentionally, they sought to build it through open and honest communication, by preserving institutional mission, and by understanding the role of the faculty. Additionally, the respondents indicated that innovation is different in top-down versus bottom-up initiatives, that identifying faculty to lead innovation and leading alongside them builds trust, as does incentivizing innovation. Based on these findings, it is recommended that CAOs should work to build trust more intentionally, that communication skills should factor heavily into the selection and ongoing training of CAOs, along with training CAOs in the preservation of institutional mission, that innovation should be incentivized by institutions, and that faculty leadership programs should be established to build innovative leaders that the CAO works alongside.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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