Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

David Alexander, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Robert Carpenter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Raul Leon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Theresa Saunders, Ph.D.


Background: Soft-skill competencies are essential for successful careers. However, recent graduates lack in soft skill development. The reason may be because there is no set list of soft skills. Soft skills are subjective and poorly defined in Health Administration and competency models are not defined in terms of attitudes, behaviors, or dispositions for training and development of students.

Purpose: Provides a platform for health administrators to define soft skills more clearly by drawing on research conducted by the Healthcare Leadership Alliance [HLA]. This research also examines health administration programs to gain a better understanding of why graduates lack soft skills.

Setting: Health administrators in Michigan and students from Michigan and Florida participated in the study.

Subjects: Twenty health administrators with a mean of 22 years of experience, from a variety of sectors, departments or functions, settings, and legal structures; and 186 recent graduates from undergraduate and graduate health administration programs.

Research Design: Phase I utilized a Delphi technique. Phase II utilized an online Qualtrics survey.

Findings: Experts reached consensus on the top two HLA soft-skill competency statement. After four rounds of the Delphi technique, experts attached attitudes, behaviors, and dispositions to the top two soft skill competency statements. Soft-skill competencies are rarely or sometimes taught in higher education settings. Yet, recent graduates’ self-perception of soft-skill competencies ranked high in comparison to how often soft-skill competencies are taught. Soft-skill competencies are not discreet, which leads to questions about how best to assess and teach soft skills. However, there was a striking influence of attending an HBCU on soft skills in this study which supports further research on how soft skills are taught in that setting.

Conclusions: Higher education has not strengthened the technical core by preparing students to perform successfully in the task environment around soft-skill competencies. The role of educational leaders is to help the organization reform the curriculum to include soft skill competency training and development of faculty and students