Although leadership research has amplified over the past decades, leadership is still puzzling. Scholars and practitioners have jointly contributed to the understanding of the leadership phenomenon, the advancement of comprehensive definitions, and the development of theory and praxis of leadership. This qualitative interpretive study aimed to discover what aspects of leadership theory were found in the practice of educational leaders and implications for the design and the development of leadership education. In order to achieve these goals, I explored, analyzed, and interpreted how people who pursued doctoral studies in Educational Leadership at Simon Fraser University experience leadership. For this study, I constructed a conceptual framework consisting of three Leadership Domains (Individual, Interactional, and Collective) and two embedded Leadership Dimensions (Development and Implementation). I used in-depth interviewing methods to collect participants’ leadership stories about their perspectives, development, and implementation of leadership. Data were analyzed to identify themes and triangulated within and across interviews and with researcher’s systematic reflections. This study’s key findings showed that leadership was a multifaceted phenomenon, shaped by people’s past experiences, and perceived as responsibility rather than authority. Participants perceived leadership as concerning people, relationships, influence, and change. Leadership development was seen as a lengthy and intricate journey, involving engagement in various forms of education, with formal education having the most impact. In addition, leadership emerged formally and informally in organizations and its implementation was primarily contextual. This study contributes to literature by providing a better understanding of educational leadership. It demonstrates that a systematic approach to studying leadership generates a richer and more cohesive perspective of this complex phenomenon. In this sense, the conceptual framework constructed for the study and the methodological approach can be used for future leadership research. The study is also useful to leadership scholars and practitioners, as well as to organisations providing leadership education.
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Thesis advisor: Laitsch, Daniel
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