Observing the connection between complexity theory and the K-12 education field, I conducted an extensive literature review to discover much research had already been undertaken. However, given the pervasive, wicked problems that still exist, there may be gaps in the operationalization of the findings. The purpose of this research is to determine how school leaders understand the complexity of their school system and if examining school leadership from a complexity lens may uncover practices that could create more effective school operations in dynamic environments. Ten school principals and leaders were interviewed. Five major themes were derived from the data: a) Leadership Style; b) Centering Connectedness and Relationships; c) Shared Vision and Culture Practices; d) Collaborative and Distributed Practices; and e) Flexible and Adaptive Practices. While there is evidence of complexity theory elements, there are other elements that were not discovered. In particular, self-organization and autonomy, equilibrium and disequilibrium, and aspects of shared culture were not identified throughout the study.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Educational leadership; Strategic planning--Education; School principals; Education, Primary; Education, Secondary

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Gary Mangiofico