Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education


In a period of tremendous change, as the educational landscape shifts to ensure our students are well prepared for new and unknown futures, the role of school principal is more essential than ever. The principal, as primary driver of change, sits at the helm of school improvement. He/she is charged with leading the complex orchestration of school efforts to develop and nurture the next generation of thinkers, problem-solvers, and innovators.

This study explored the attributes, behavior, and practices of effective K-12 principals through a mixed method design. Nine principals from the suburbs of Chicago participated in this study. Using 5Essential data to identify effective principals, participants completed a self-reflection survey about their leadership responsibilities and later participated in hour-long face to face interviews. The rich stories of their leadership journeys revealed many insights about the key influences and experiences that shaped their leadership practices. Further, through their descriptions of their roles and perceptions of themselves as leaders, the nine principals revealed several key leadership responsibilities, particularly in the area of building purposeful communities that were evident in their practice. Lastly, their personal narratives revealed their value in shared leadership and their beliefs that, together with their faculty and staff, they are stronger and better able meet the evolving needs of their students. The stories shared by these principals were relevant because while many of their leadership strengths are affirmed by the literature and research on principal leadership, their unique circumstances and contexts provided insights that have not been traditionally examined in the field.