The principal as a person : a study of values in secondary school leadership : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This research explored the personal dimensions of school principalship. The study described the personal values systems of two secondary principals and suggested how such valuation processes might influence their leadership behaviours. The research was prompted by a lack of detail in the literature about why principals act the way they do and how their core personal and professional values might impact on decision-making and on school directions. A qualitative case study approach was used to examine the personal and professional lives of an urban and a rural secondary school principal in the South Island of New Zealand over a period of 35 months. Methods of data collection included researcher participant observation and a series of in-depth interviews with the two principals and with significant others. A grounded theory approach to analysis was used that involved a systematic development of categories of meaning drawn from the data. An interpretive paradigm was selected as the research framework. Together with the perspective of symbolic interactionism, an interpretive model of inquiry lent itself well to a focus on principal thought and action, especially in regard to the concept of values-based leadership. The findings of the research study suggested the centrality of the two principals' core personal values as a motivating force behind their leadership behaviours. The concepts of values origins, values alignment and the management of contested values were identified as influential features of the values enactment of principalship. The research suggests that reflection-on-self and interrogation of core personal values may be important for understanding the principalship in the areas of emotional and spiritual intelligences, resiliency and personal well-being. The implications of these findings for educational leadership theory and for principal self-development are discussed. As a consequence, the thesis proposes a values-based model of principal self-development that draws on adult learning principles. The model also includes a framework for critical self-reflection that is built around a process of self-examination, the use of human agency and scholarly literature.