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  • 1

    Leading in Unfamiliar Territory: A Narrative Research Study Exploring How Newly

    Transitioned Principals Describe Their Experiences Developing Relationships Amongst

    Followers in A Large Urban School District in The Southeast United States

    A thesis presented

    by

    Laymon A. Hicks

    to

    The School of Education

    In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

    Doctor of Education

    in the field of

    Organizational Leadership

    College of Professional Studies

    Northeastern University

    Boston, Massachusetts

    December 2016

  • 2

    This work is dedicated to:

    Those who have inspired me

    Those I have inspired

    Those I will inspire.

    A special dedication to:

    Karsyn Leigh Hicks

  • 3

    Acknowledgements

    None of this would be possible without my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for

    giving me the strength, grit, and mental stamina to endure. It was not easy, but I made it.

    I want to thank the amazing faculty of Northeastern Univeristy’s College of Professional

    Studies. Thank you for providing me with invaluable tools, resources, and lessons that will aid

    me in my journey to be an agent of change. A special thank you to my thesis committee

    members, Dr. Margaret Gorman Kirchoff and Dr. Elizabeth Mahler. I consider myself blessed to

    have been taught by you during the coursework phase and further guided by you during the

    dissertation phase. Although this journey was lonely at times, you pushed me, challenged my

    thinking, and helped me to see my value and contribution as a scholar-practitioner. I am also

    enormously grateful for Dr. Phildra Swagger for serving as my outside examiner.

    There is no way that I could have accomplished this journey from start to finish without

    the support of wonderful colleagues. A special thank you to Kelly Hope, Anika Daniels-Osaze,

    Shemariah Arki, Kimbrella Warfield, Cedric Harris, Chase Raymond, Samantha Streamer

    Veneruso, Adrienne Bricker, Chase Raymond, Jake Dibbert, Joe Goodrich, and Aron Wisherd.

    A special thank you to my childhood friend, Terrance Range. We are all a force to be reckoned

    with, and I cannot wait until the day that I get to call each of you Doctor.

    Reaching this milestone is a dream come true. In 2007, when my great-grandmother,

    Betty Jo DuPont, passed away, I wrote a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish. Near the top

    of that list was to obtain a doctorate. Since then, I have looked up to, been inspired, and pushed

    by many mentors who hold doctorate degrees: Drs. Mary Coburn, Courtney Barry, Sandra Miles,

    Tamara Bertrand Jones, Rebekah Dorn, Laura Osteen, T.K. Wetherell, Brandon Bowden, Juan

  • 4

    Guardia, Khadish Franklin, Chrystal George Mwangi, Dan Jenkins, John Keller, Erica McCray,

    Craig Bythewood, and Leslie Wirpsa. Thanks to each of you for your inspiration.

    Thank you to my family and friends that supported me during this process. Your support

    is unquantifiable. I would like to acknowledge particularly my aunt, Jacqueline Cross, who

    believed in me the most. Whenever I complained about this process, your response of “You got

    it” was not what I wanted to hear, but it inspired me to know that you were behind me 100%.

    Thank you for your continued support of my endeavors and me.

    Finally, I am grateful and owe a world of gratitude to my wife, Keisha, whose love and

    support sustained me. We supported each other in our quest to attain advanced degrees. When

    you were ready to start a family, I pushed back and asked you to allow me to finish my degree.

    My degree is complete, and our family is growing. Thank you for your sacrifice, patience,

    friendship, commitment, and enthusiasm.

  • 5

    Abstract

    Recent evidence indicates that nearly 25,000 school principals vacate the role each year. This

    problem is acutely serious in urban schools and urban school districts. Consequently, many

    transitioning principals are asked to enter and lead schools laden with uncertainty and

    unstableness. This narrative study explored how newly transitioned principals in a large urban

    school district in the southeast United States, experiencing frequent principal transitions,

    describe their experiences of developing relationships with their followers and how those

    followers shaped the newly transitioned principals’ leadership. Participants of this study were 12

    principals who had been at their school site no more than three years and were outside

    appointments. Informing the study was leader-member exchange theory and followership

    theory. Following semi-structured interviews, the data was inductively analyzed manually, and

    seven themes emerged. Key findings highlight approaches the principals used to build and

    maintain relationships, the styles of followers they encountered, and how those followers

    influenced the principals. This study concluded with suggestions for further research and

    implications for theory and practice.

    Keywords: LMX Theory, Followership Theory, relationship building, leader-follower

    relationship, principal-teacher relationship, follower influence

  • 6

    Table of Contents

    CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................... 12

    Statement of the Problem .............................................................................................................. 14

    Purpose Statement ......................................................................................................................... 18

    Central Research Question and Subquestions............................................................................... 18

    Conceptual Framework ................................................................................................................. 19

    Leader-Member Exchange Theory ........................................................................................... 19

    Followership Theory ................................................................................................................. 20

    Theoretical Conclusions............................................................................................................ 21

    Overview of Research Plan ........................................................................................................... 22

    Significance of the Study .............................................................................................................. 23

    Limitations and Delimitations ....................................................................................................... 25

    Delimitations ............................................................................................................................. 27

    Definition of Key Terms ............................................................................................................... 27

    Chapter One Summary .................................................................................................................. 28

    CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW ............................................................................... 29

    The Principalship in Historical Perspective .................................................................................. 32

    The Shortage and High Turnover of Principals in Urban Schools ............................................... 39

    The Shortage of Principals ........................................................................................................ 39

    Principal Turnover .................................................................................................................... 40

    The Effect of Principal Turnover .............................................................................................. 42

    Principal Successions and Leadership Transitions ....................................................................... 43

    The Transition and Succession of Principals ............................................................................ 43

    The Effect of Principal Successions and Leadership Transitions ............................................. 46

    Principal Turnover and Leadership Succession Conclusion ..................................................... 48

    Leader-Member Exchange Theory ............................................................................................... 49

    The Evolution of LMX ............................................................................................................. 51

    Antecedents and Outcomes of LMX......................................................................................... 52

    The Quality of LMX Relationships .......................................................................................... 54

    Trust in LMX Relationships ..................................................................................................... 57

    Not All LMX Relationships Are the Same ..........................