Sherri Smith

Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

James Ryland

Committee Member

James E. Henderson

Committee Member

Jan Arminio


Educational Leadership, Spirituality


Historically, the job of a public school superintendent has been to manage the operations of the district. With the pressures and changes in today's world, there is a requirement for school leaders to command more skills than merely management skills. In order to understand what skills effective school leaders need, more research into effective leadership techniques and skills is necessary. More current research has begun to study a higher moral method of leadership, one in which the leader allows his spirituality to guide all of his decisions and relationships. The study of spiritual leadership focused on education, specifically, the superintendent, is greatly needed to provide insights into the professional development of future educational leaders. The purpose of this study was to determine if spiritual leadership is an effective style of leadership for superintendents of public schools by describing how it looks in practice and identifying the varying characteristics that are held in common by those superintendents identified as spiritual leaders. A qualitative design was utilized to achieve an in-depth understanding of the leadership characteristics that the two selected superintendents displayed under the conditions of the superintendency. Through a case study approach, the investigation was conducted using the following research methods: semi-structured one-on-one interviews with the superintendent, key members of the administrative team and School Board, onsite observations, and document analysis. Data was analyzed in two stages; a with-in case analysis and a cross-case analysis, to find core consistencies and reveal patterns and themes within each case and secondly, make comparisons between the two cases. This study may have implications for those in educational leadership positions for their own spiritual leadership development and their support of others. Awareness of the factors that influence the participants, recognized for their spiritual leadership, may promote an understanding of spiritual formation factors. Insight into the practices and daily interactions of superintendents perceived as spiritual leaders by their assistants and other key administrators and stakeholders may provide knowledge into how to recognize a spiritual leader in the hiring process and an understanding of successful spiritual practices in education.