Date of Award

8-2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Studies (to 2007)

Abstract

The purpose o f this study was to investigate a multiple-perspectives approach to educational leadership. Twelve superintendents from the state of Michigan participated in this study. A sampling strategy was used to differentiate six novices from six experienced superintendents. Interviews, thinking-aloud, and journals were used in order to capture information regarding superintendents’ approaches to leadership. The conceptual framework used in this study was defined by (a) a system of perspectives on leadership, and (b) the assumptions that lie beneath those perspectives, including the assumptions about the leader, follower, organization, and task. These two components turned into the two-level coding system for analyzing the data collected. The researcher inquired into (a) how educational leaders perceived the concept of leadership, and (b) whether or not they took a multiple-perspectives approach to leadership, and if so, how they integrated the multiple perspectives on leadership in their practices. Among others, the following are the main findings of this study. First, the novice superintendents tended to use only elements from the democratic perspective. However, the experienced superintendent group used a combination of elements from the formal or structural, democratic, as well as the political leadership perspective. Overall, the data seem to suggest that the more experienced the superintendent is, he or she will tend to integrate more elements from the different leadership perspectives. Second, all the 12 superintendents exhibited a common mechanism or scheme — identifying the problem’s context, considering time constraints, and making the necessary decision(s) -- when dealing with leadership issues. Nevertheless, for the novice superintendents, time constraints meant to have the opportunity to look for more possible alternatives; for the experienced superintendents it meant to have the opportunities of increasing involvement from other members in the decision-making process. The findings of this study have both theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, the study (a) challenges the fragmentation of leadership theories and raises a critical issue about the integration of multiple perspectives, and (b) engages in an initial test of the ability of different groups of leaders to integrate multiple perspectives on leadership. Practically, the empirical findings have implications for the education and professional development of superintendents.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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