Department of Educational Administration


First Advisor

Marilyn Grady

Date of this Version



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 Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2023

Copyright © 2023 Jason A. Thomsen


In recent years, a greater emphasis has been placed on leadership development programs across a wide array of sectors in an effort to improve organizations. A growing body of research indicates that strong educational leadership practices have the ability to impact virtually all aspects of a school system. What is less evident in the research is how K-12 school districts utilize leadership development programs and make decisions regarding the implementation of those programs in order to cultivate educational leaders. The purpose of this multi-case study was to examine how K-12 school districts utilize leadership development programs and the role that this plays in the growth of educational leaders. This multi-case study utilized purposeful sampling to identify case participants and one-on-one in person interviews as the primary data collection method. Interview transcripts were coded using structural coding followed by pattern coding, which allowed for large data sets to be structured into smaller pieces. Within-case analysis was conducted to establish a detailed understanding of each case followed by cross-case analysis which was utilized to establish themes that are common and different to all cases. Based on the results, six primary themes emerged from the data including; (a) the need for leadership training, (b) tailored leadership training, (c) tiered approach to leadership training, (d) common elements of leadership training programs, (e) the role mentorship plays in leadership development, and (f) the impact of leadership development. Using the results of this study can provide K-12 schools districts with guidance as to how and why districts make decisions regarding the development and implementation of leadership development programs for aspiring educational leaders. The information gleaned from this study can also be used to improve existing K-12 programs and provide guidance for establishing new programs. By implementing leadership develop programs, districts have the potential to develop stronger leaders within the entire school system, which can shift the entire system and improve the overall performance of students within the school.

Advisor: Marilyn Grady