Department of Educational Administration


First Advisor

Nick Pace

Date of this Version


Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Administration (P-12 System-Level Educational Leadership), Under the Supervision of Professor Dr. Nicholas J. Pace. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Rachel L. Bruce


At the time of this study, very little research existed concerning transgender people and educational leadership. The Synergistic Leadership Theory (SLT) was developed by researchers at Sam Houston State University in 1999. While previous researchers found the SLT to be gender-inclusive, the only studies to date had been conducted with cisgender participants. Thus, this study incorporated a non-cisgender subject to examine the professional experiences of an educational leader who is transgender through the lens of the SLT. By utilizing a qualitative descriptive case study, the researcher sought to answer two questions: (a) What are the lived professional experiences of a transgender superintendent? and (b) Does the SLT offer a reasonable explanation of how a transgender superintendent does his work? Lark Doolan was the first openly transgender public-school superintendent in the country after coming out to his staff, students, and school board in 2017. Data was collected through the completion of the Organizational and Leadership Effectiveness Inventory (Bamberg, 2004) followed by a semi-structured open-ended interview with the researcher. The researcher mined data from documents and artifacts that were readily available online.

The findings indicate the lived professional experiences of Doolan offer an example of the how the SLT is a plausible lens through which a transgender leader does his work. Doolan’s lived professional experiences reflect interactive factors of the SLT. This study affirmed that the SLT is a plausible lens through which a transgender leader does his work and affirmed that the SLT is a useful tool for examining leaders and leadership regardless of gender identity because it gives voice to a queer person and expands and enriches the body of academic work around a leadership theory that has not been associated with gender non-conforming/non-binary persons. Implications for practice and areas for further research are included in Chapter 5.

Adviser: Nicholas J. Pace