Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version


Document Type



Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, Vol. 6, No. 2--April 2008 ISSN: 1541 -6224


Copyright © 2008 Pro>Active Publications. Used by permission.


This article describes the leadership journey of Kathryn, an educational leader, in relation to current research on women's experiences as educational leaders. This life history was developed as a grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) study. Conducted over a two-year period, the semi-structured interviews used to conduct the study were influenced by Van Manen's (1992) work on life history interviews as a means of studying individuals' lived experiences. The interviews were triangulated through field note observations and document analysis. In addition to exemplifying life history as a research method, a framework for studying leadership development emerged based on the themes: commitment, personal competence, sense of self-esteem, reflection, appreciation of others, open communication, problem-solving, power sharing, collaboration, shared decision-making, and sense of visioning. The themes were explored in relation to the early years, the early career, and the leadersh ip career of Kathryn as a principal. The findings remind us that many of the qualities closely linked with transformational leadership begin during family and early school life.


When Kathryn chose her career, her ambitions were to become the best possible reading teacher and to provide children with positive learning experiences. Her career achieved that and much more as she grew from a promising young teacher to a curriculum consultant and then a successful school administrator. Throughout her life and career, Kathryn walked a fine balance. As a young child, Kathryn balanced her constantly changing world with the needs of horne and family. As a teen, she struggled to balance personal achievement with issues of economic adversity. Throughout her teaching career, Kathryn balanced the traditional with the innovative. As a principal, she balanced the challenges and personal leadership dilemmas with the tasks of administration.