Experiencing leadership: Perceptions of leadership development for higher education contexts.


  • Cristina L. Eftenaru




leadership, higher education leadership, leadership development, qualitative interpretive study, leadership education


Higher education is complex and so is the leadership needed in this context. Educational leadership is not well understood despite an increasing interest in studying the phenomenon. This interpretive study aimed to identify aspects of leadership theory found in practice and implications for leadership education by exploring, analyzing, and interpreting experiences of people who earned an Educational Leadership Doctorate at Simon Fraser University. I conducted in-depth interviews and analyzed data to identify themes within and across interviews while also triangulating with my systematic reflections. This paper presents findings on leadership development, focusing on four themes that emerged from 18 interviews with higher education participants: Pathways to Formal Leadership, Learning “How to Be a Leader”, Learning “About Leadership”, and Learning “the Dialogue of Practice”. Leadership was perceived as an intricate lifelong journey. Overall, participants developed their leadership through their own experiences as leaders, followers, or observers of leadership, by engaging in leadership education (formal, informal, and non-formal), and by interacting with others. Finally, both successes and challenges supported learning, yet challenges were more salient and had more memorable lessons. This paper provides valuable insights on leadership development to leadership scholars and practitioners, as well as organizations offering leadership education.

Author Biography

Cristina L. Eftenaru

Cristina L. Eftenaru earned a Doctorate in Education Leadership from Simon Fraser University. She considers herself a lifelong learner who eagerly engages in exploring new topics using a variety of conventional and creative approaches. Cristina is a passionate researcher of leadership and learning. Her systematic approach to research along with her endeavor to bridge theory and practice and cross paradigm lines allow her to challenge viewpoints and weave in concepts that various perspectives reveal in new and innovative ways. Cristina enjoys tapping into her own and others’ expertise and experiences and is committed to disseminating widely the findings of her work. Her career path has taken her into areas such as teaching, leadership, experiential learning, and consulting. Cristina works as an Instructor at Langara College and is a Coordinator in Work Integrated Learning at Simon Fraser University. She serves on ACE-WIL Board and on several institutional, provincial, and international committees.




How to Cite

Eftenaru, C. L. (2024). Experiencing leadership: Perceptions of leadership development for higher education contexts. International Journal for Leadership in Learning, 24(1), 154–190. https://doi.org/10.29173/ijll49