Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Stephen D. Brookfield

Third Advisor

Artika R. Tyner


This qualitative study explored the motivations and experiences of for-profit leaders who crossed sectors to become nonprofit executives. Eight participants described their career pathways and initial experiences in a for-profit setting. Pathway stories to nonprofit leadership began with educational background, followed successive for-profit roles, and concluded with one or more nonprofit executive leadership experiences. The study revealed nonprofit crossover leaders followed a motivation for missional alignment, whether consciously known early in their career progression or discovered later, and shared a system of beliefs, values, and ethics ultimately pointing toward nonprofit executive positions. Nonprofit crossover leaders demonstrated varying postures of preparedness for their initial experiences in the nonprofit sector and implemented organizational changes early in their tenures following a similar set of strategic priorities. Authentic leadership theory explained the missional motivation and values-based system of decision-making guiding their career pathways into nonprofit roles. However, nonprofit crossover leaders favored the more mechanistic elements of the structural frame over the human resource, political, and symbolic frames (Bolman & Deal, 2017) in the organizational changes they implemented. The study contributes to a largely under-researched trend in the nonprofit sector of hiring executives with for-profit backgrounds (Su & Bozeman, 2009) and expands understanding of nonprofit crossover leadership with implications for leaders and nonprofit organizations, as well as for institutions offering nonprofit leadership programs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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