Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Chad D. Ellett

Second Advisor

Charles Teddlie


This study examined new means for conceptualizing leadership in schools from a non-centrist perspective. Specifically, leadership in schools was conceived of, and studied as, an organizational construct rather than a set of personal attributes associated with positional authority. This non-centrist view of leadership is termed leadership density (Sergiovanni, 1987; Ellett, 1996), and is metaphorically represented in the study by characteristics of a small jazz combo. The primary focus of the study was the development of a new conceptual model of leadership, grounded within the small jazz combo metaphor. In an attempt to understand leadership from this new perspective, linkages between professional elements of school culture and the self-efficacy beliefs of teachers and administrators, and the degree of leadership density in schools were studied. Using the quantitative (survey) results, four contrasting schools were selected for in-depth, qualitative case studies to better understand the meaning of leadership density, as derived from the small jazz combo metaphor, in the everyday life of schools. Considered collectively, the results of the study provided initial support for further elaborating a theory of leadership density grounded in the small jazz combo metaphor. The quantitative results were generally in the direction predicted by the study. The qualitative results, while not clearly documenting any school yet operating from a small jazz combo perspective, did serve to corroborate many of the quantitative findings. Collectively, the findings of the study support the small jazz combo metaphor as a viable conceptualization that captures many of the dynamics believed necessary for the creation and facilitation of leadership density in schools. The results are discussed in view of their implications for theory, future research, and practice. Implications for the further study of professional school culture, linking culture to leadership density, self-efficacy theory and leadership density in schools, teacher and administrator preparation and certification programs, school accountability and reform models, and the evolution of school leadership are discussed. Finally, a set of recommendations is provided for enhancing the development of leadership density in schools of tomorrow.