Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Gail T. Schneider

Committee Members

Rajeswari Swaminathan, Thomas Joynt, Leigh Wallace, Debra Hunt


High Schools, Rural Education, Women Principals


This study was explored the leadership experiences of female principals of rural high schools in a Midwestern state. The study sought to describe the leadership styles used by these principals to make changes within their schools. Qualitative methodology was used, and four female rural high school principals were interviewed during a series of four hour-long sessions. Transcripts of these interviews were then reviewed and themes identified.

The findings of the study revealed that the principals received informal mentorship and ongoing professional support and that the rural community required them to serve as community role models, effective communicators, and change agents who respected tradition. The effects of sex role stereotypes appeared through the rural communities' acceptance and application of the traditional androcentric definition to the high school principal position.

The principals favored a relational style of leadership coupled with care-focused decisionmaking. They expressed a need to care for the welfare of students and faculty and make changes that enhanced learning opportunities for their students. They sought to empower all stakeholders in order to foster collaboration that produced changes to improve student learning. They circumvented their communities' practice of maintaining the traditional status quo by employing a "power with" instead of "power over" leadership structure.