Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kofi Lomotey


I addressed the problem that leadership theory is lacking in regard to how women lead high schools. My primary purpose was to contribute to the limited literature that exists regarding the leadership practices of women who are high school principals. I explored the notion of a female culture of school leadership and situated that culture among quintessential theory dictated by organizational research. I conducted this study in two phases. In Phase One I reported the demographics of 44 female high school principals in Louisiana along with their self-reported values on 32 leadership characteristics. Most important to their leadership were: communication, instructional focus, collaboration, vision, nurturing, and caring. In Phase Two I conducted four case studies of female high school principals: (a) a Latina woman at an alternative rural school, (b) a White woman at a magnet urban school, (c) an African American woman at a traditional inner-city school, and (d) a White woman in a traditional rural school. Cultural themes that surrounded the leadership of each woman included (respectively): (a) caretaking, (b) empowerment, (c) pride, and (d) tragedy. While all four women valued instructional focus, it was the first three who had been able to successfully transfer their classroom leadership skills to the principalship. The women who were successful in their leadership practices led primarily through collaborative efforts and by nurturing their staffs and students. Among these women I saw a shared culture of female leadership which included these elements: (a) power with (rather than power over), (b) an ethos of care, (c) energy, (d) diversity, (e) democracy, (f) community of learners. I highlighted the agendized nature of dominant theory, citing the perpetuation of patriarchal studies and their unceasing influence on subsequent leadership theory. This biased perspective is the primary way aspiring principals are taught to look at leadership. I made a point of integrating this female culture among the existing theory. In juxtaposition female leadership is more inclusive than traditional leadership. By including the elements of female leadership within theory, women will no longer be a missing element, but a critical one as they should be.