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Effective Leadership Qualities and Characteristics of Urban School Principals

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TITLE: Effective Leadership Qualities and Characteristics of Urban School Principals
RESEARCHER: MiChele R. Holly
School of Education and Social Sciences
Robert Morris University (Pennsylvania)
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: Spring 2009

The purpose of this research was to examine the effective leadership qualities and characteristics of urban school principals.

Four administrative and four non-administrative subjects from the Pittsburgh Public School District were selected for this research study. This is a mid-size urban school district with a population of approximately 30,000 students. All of the subjects had been reassigned to schools that were reconstituted within the last two years due to low academic performance. The subject’s ages ranged from 28-56 years. Five of the subjects had earned a masters degree, one was a doctoral candidate, and two held doctorates. Each subject participated in interviews and their daily interactions were observed through passive observation. Two administrators were white males, along with one white female and one black female. All four non-administrators were female and two were white and two were black. The Leadership Practices Inventory “inspired the series of questions” asked in both the non-administrator interview and the second administrator interview, and was completed by all participants.

The requirements for successful leadership were not seen as different between the administrative and non-administrative school leaders. The most frequently identified leadership practice was Model, Enable and Encourage, followed by Inspire and Challenge. “As indicated from the results of the Leadership Practices Inventory, all of the administrative subjects,” according to the researcher, agreed “that the components of the Leadership Practices Inventory are most effective when they work in concert with each other” (p. 97). Moreover, she notes that “in summation, the findings in this study strongly align with the work of Kouzes and Posner. Many of the characteristics identified by the respondents as attributes of their current success fall into one of the Five Leadership Practices” (p. 98).


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