Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Educational Administration


Educational Administration

Major Professor

Beabout, Brian

Second Advisor

Broadhurst, Christopher

Third Advisor

Kuhn, Michael

Fourth Advisor

O'Hanlon, Ann


This study examines leader behavior in an independent school setting. Specifically, this qualitative phenomenological study explores the lived experiences of new heads of schools in independent schools located in Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma and their conceptualization of the skills required for the headship. The study explores the knowledge and skills new heads say they use as leaders, how the knowledge and skills they developed in their careers prepared them for leadership, and the ways in which they feel they might have been better prepared for leadership. The study uses the skills-based model of leadership as its theoretical framework, and its methodological approach and discussion of findings are influenced by the framework’s three main areas: knowledge, social judgment skills, and problem-solving skills.

The study revealed three main types of knowledge relevant to independent school leader preparation: knowledge acquired through terminal degree or other formalized programs, practical knowledge acquired through professional experience, and institutional knowledge, i.e. knowledge unique to a head’s work in a specific school. The study also discusses three distinct ways in which new heads utilize social judgment skills: how they communicate, how they work with school constituents, and how they delegate work. The study suggests patience, deliberation, and listening are key factors in how new heads of school execute their problem-solving skills. The study also discusses other findings of note that are also relevant to the experiences of new heads of school. These include the feelings of loneliness and stress the participants felt as new heads as well as the personal and professional sources of support they sought because of those challenges. The study may be used to inform leader preparation programs oriented towards independent school leaders.


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