Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Second Advisor

Walter Gmelch

Third Advisor

Richard Johnson III

Fourth Advisor

Christopher Chamberlain


As current public parks and recreation organizational leaders age and retire, it will become important for qualified professionals to be prepared to fill these positions. A study by Hurd and McLean (2004) examined the perceived competencies of CEOs in public park and recreation organizations. Leadership and management were rated as the most important competencies for CEOs. However, these perceived competencies are not only for the CEOs; all professionals employed in parks and recreation, from administrative leaders to direct service providers, must demonstrate leadership to succeed in their positions (Russell, 2005). Thus, it is crucial for parks and recreation organizations to understand the type of leadership needed in their field as well as appropriate leadership development methods.

This survey study determined the self-perceived type of leadership used by professionals in the public parks and recreation field and examined the relationship between types of leadership development methods and transformational leadership. Focusing on public parks and recreation professionals in California the sample included the 4,063 members of California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS) solicited through emails and direct contact at a conference. Data were collected through self-reported online surveys. A total of 372 surveys were completed over a two-month period in Winter 2018.

Results of the study indicate that public parks and recreation professionals in California use transformational leadership more than they do transactional or laissez-faire leadership. Additionally, there is a moderate relationship between leadership development experiences and self-perceived use of transformational leadership. Findings indicate moderate, positive relationships between developmental assignments, self-development activities, and self-perceived use of transformational leadership. Weak, positive relationships were found between formal programs, feedback processes, and developmental relationships and self-perceived use of transformational leadership.

Results from this study can support CPRS, public parks and recreation organizations, and universities in their efforts to provide leadership development to the profession. These organizations should consider continuing or adding purposeful developmental assignments as well as encouraging and supporting self-development leadership development methods.