Publication Date

Fall 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Gary Houchens (Director), Tom Stewart, Janet Tassell, and Jim Flynn

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


Expansive research on leadership, particularly school leadership, has suggested leaders have an indirect impact on student outcomes, as leaders build a school’s academic capacity, which elevates teaching and learning (Hallinger, 2010). Though there is significant empirical research regarding school leadership, there is a lack of research investigating the intersection of leadership and innovation. In terms of innovation, “personalized learning,” has become an emerging topic among education researchers, as scholars seek to understand the potential impact personalized learning strategies have on student outcomes.

The purpose of this study was to explore how leadership interacts with innovation. This study specifically explored the roles of the superintendent, the principal, and informal leaders during a district wide, personalized learning initiative. This dissertation draws from the conceptual framework of Hallinger’s (2010) “leadership for learning,” to better understand the role of leadership during this innovative initiative.

Three research questions framed this study: (a) What is the role of the superintendent in the implementation of a district wide, personalized learning initiative? (b) What is the role of principals in the implementation of a district wide, personalized learning initiative? and (c) What is the role of informal leaders in the implementation of a district wide, personalized learning initiative? Constant comparative analysis was utilized to cluster data, revealing themes for each type of leader.

Findings revealed the superintendent was the catalyst for change and was the driving force of what the innovation should look like. Additionally, the superintendent fostered a culture of innovation. Secondly, findings revealed the principal was the chief communicator among stakeholders and promoted the initiative by encouraging and modeling mindset changes among stakeholders.

Lastly, the informal leaders were those who were early adopters of innovative practices, impacting their colleagues and increasing participation in the initiative. Overall findings suggested a consistent and aligned collection of behaviors and actions that each type of leader exhibited throughout the initiative.


Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Leadership | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration