Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Valerie J. Janesick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sherman Dorn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zorka Karanxha, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William Young, Ed.D.


Distributed Leadership, Site-Based Management, Transformational Leadership, Phenomenological


The number of studies related to school reform and principal leadership styles confirms both the interest in how the two might be related and the enigma that schools and principals present as research topics. The art and science of school reform is hard to figure. While many studies attempt to make sense of an overlapping and competing set of variables that are found in good schools, nearly all studies have confirmed some support for principals as a key ingredient to school improvement.

This study seeks to add to the increasing amount of research related to principal leadership styles in an era of increasing levels of accountability. The focus for this study was on four high school principals who were identified as "successful" by their central office superintendents. Each of the principals was a veteran administrator in three of the six largest school districts in Florida. This study's initial focus was on site-based management and the amount and degree of control afforded the principal, teachers and parents in secondary schools. The literature review found that site-based management by itself could not be confirmed as a reliable, research-supported school reform protocol. In each case where site-based management or distributed leadership was found to be successful, the principal was the key antecedent to the school improvement.

This study sought to add to the research on principal leadership styles by providing a qualitative view on the lives and efforts of the principals in these four schools. The study employed a phenomenological approach and used a technique called portraiture to paint the narratives of the four participants. The interviews and site visits provided a great deal of data and produced four key themes or tendencies found in all four principals: They tended to be I-focused, We-focused, Servant-focused, and Learning-focused. These four styles of leadership were found to be both overlapping and paradoxical. Though each of the participants had slightly different leanings, all of them shared aspects of the four tendencies. The study adds to the growing research on school reform and principal leadership styles and provides a deeper understanding of each through its use of phenomenological methods.