C S. Elliott

Date of Award


Degree Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Education


School of Education


Faculty of Arts and Education


The focus of the research was on the manifestation of leadership that emerged in one district high school in Western Australia undergoing both imposed and self-determined change. Given the phenomena, which were deemed to involve complex human behaviour, a decision was made to locate the research within the naturalistic paradigm. The research was established in the “bounded case study” mode in which the school was regarded as an instant draw from a class within which issues would be discovered the described and studies in order to achieve understanding. A second district high school was used as a reference point from which developments in the case study school might be judged. A bounded case study of a second district high school as its school development plan was ratified by the district superintendent, was conducted. The school development plan was considered to be the product of the changes this school had undergone. A three phase research design was adopted in order to formulate research questions and procedures, undertake trialing and collect data. Data was collected by formal and informal interviews, direct observations and weekly three day visits to the case study school and periodic visits to the reference school. The Principal of the later school was used as an “external auditor” for the data analysis and interpretations. Data were analysed using a data content analysis system based upon a single frame of reference - interventions - and a preliminary categorization taxonomy developed as an initial conceptual framework. Data were ‘mapped” using two techniques based on chronologies of action and events (interventions) and leadership approach. Analysis of data indicated that the cultural difference between the secondary, upper primary and junior primary sections of district high schools should be taken into account when change is implemented in those schools. A clear and unambiguous definition of the tasks, functions and powers of district superintendents and principals of self-determining schools within the reform Ministry of Education should be developed so that conflicting understandings by Ministry of Education staff no longer exist. To develop a non-adversary relationship with principals, district superintendents should move from the use of legitimate and coercive power bases and use export and referent power. A system of professional support for principals, independent of the Ministry of Education hierarchy, should be implemented at Education District level. A principal need not exhibit all of the levels of leadership in the proportions suggested by Sergiovanni (1984) to aspire to be the principal of an excellent school, so long as the aggregate of the leadership behaviour in the school includes leadership in all levels, in the proportions suggested. In situations where individuals are permitted by peers to exercise leadership roles, their behaviour will not be consistent with that suggested by Sergiovanni (1984), as constituting excellent leadership. Effective leadership is fluid. As subordinates expectations vary, as they become more familiar with the task, an effective leader will monitor the situation and make fine adjustments to exert the necessary coordinations, control and motivation of staff. Individuals in leadership positions will vary their behaviour in response to situations where there is actual conflict or the potential for conflict. Individuals in leadership positions will vary their behaviour to accommodate changes in their perception of the flexibility of the task. The potential for conflict exists when the cultural situation changes. This conflict will, most often, be between “tribal” groups created on the bases of social, shared and vested interests. In cases where the tasks traditionally performed at executive or managerial levels, such as by deputy principals, the individuals at that level will be subject to diminished legitimate power and become without roles.