Educational organizational leadership paradigm perspectives of high school principals: Current reality and a vision of the future

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Administration|Education, Secondary|Education, Philosophy of




Educational leadership is difficult to define and rarely examined in a context other than the bureaucratic organizational model. Furthermore, the concept of leadership and the constructs for defining it are lacking a conceptual foundation at the paradigm level. ^ This study had two purposes. The first purpose was to construct a model of educational leadership based in the works of Leithwood et al. (1994) and Senge (1990). The six-profile leadership model that was constructed spanned the range of more positivist to more postpositivist view of educational leadership. The first four profiles have their origin in the positivist paradigm and the bureaucratic organizational model, where a principal was perceived as either a (1) building manager, (2) humanitarian, (3) program manager, or (4) systematic problem solver. The next two profiles were grounded in more postpositivist thinking and the learning organizational model, where a principal was perceived as either an (5) organizational systems designer, or (6) organizational systems steward. Four components (goals, factors, strategies, and decision-making) were used to define leadership from a conceptual framework and to characterize practices by statements from each of the six leadership profiles. The second purpose was to apply this model to high school principals' perceptions of their current as well as their future leadership practices. ^ The six-profile leadership model acted as template for data collection and analysis. The study was divided into two phases. In Phase 1, survey questionnaires were used as the primary data collection source. Quantitative methods were used for data analysis and yielded an overall rank order for each of the four components of the six leadership profiles from the two perspectives. In Phase 2, semi-structured interviews and document analysis were used to collect data from a representative from each of the six-profiles. Qualitative methods were used to render a description for each of the six leadership profiles from the two perspectives. ^ Data analysis revealed that the principals' conceptualization of their leadership practice from the current and future perspective were a mix of positivist and postpositivist thinking that spanned the paradigm continuum. However, the principals tended to be more positivist, bureaucratic, in the explanation of their leadership practice from both the current and future perspectives. ^