Leadership Practices of Women Superintendents: A Qualitative Study

Secondary Education    Principals/Superintendents

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TITLE: Leadership Practices of Women Superintendents: A Qualitative Study
RESEARCHER: Sarah B. du Plessis
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: October 2008

The purpose of the study was to describe the leadership practices of women superintendents of public school divisions.

The researcher interviewed eight women superintendents in the Commonwealth of Virginia examining the participants’ self-perceived leadership practices and their reflections of these practices. Data collection occurred through use of interviews, member checks, field notes, a reflexive journal and completion of the Leadership Practices Inventory-SELF.

The findings produced eight leadership practices: (1) use consistent and accurate communication with all stakeholders, (2) be visible, (3) use limited delegation, (4) be collaborative, (5) remain poised, (6) accept personal sacrifice of time and family, (7) exhibit confident, and (8) self-educate, be a quick learner. The findings concluded that women described their leadership practices as relationship building practices and practices incorporating issues of gender and silencing.

“Results of the LPI-SELF determined that participants perceived themselves to be highly collaborative, accepting of risk, going beyond status quo thinking, good communicators and listeners. The majority of the participants set clear visions of their goals, but had difficulty with patience in the implementation process. Participants also recognized their difficulties in being able to delegate tasks. Most participants were appreciative of their followers’ successes and recognized them in various formal and informal ways” (p. 73).