This study examines the overarching challenge education practitioners face knowing how to lead significant change collectively in their schools. This qualitative research study explored the definition of shared leadership and examined a framework of seven behavioral, social, and cultural organizational conditions hypothesized to support a shared approach to leading change in schools: (a) communication and widespread participation; (b) clarity of roles and responsibilities; (c) feedback, recognition, and celebration; (d) mutually supportive and trusting relationships; (e) collaborative learning and inquiry; (f) collective mindsets conducive to change; and (g) attention to shared purpose and focus for the whole school. Interviews were conducted with 15 individuals and focus groups with 34 school leadership team members from four elementary schools in Missouri. The participating schools, which were located in both rural and urban/suburban locations, were purposively selected based on demonstration of increased shared leadership capacity and improvement in student achievement on state assessments over the previous two years. As the framework proved to be a useful tool to help leadership teams to make sense of their lived experiences, the researcher recommends that education practitioners and those who work with them consider using the framework when collectively leading change in schools. Findings from this study indicated that lived experiences with shared leadership expanded school leadership teams' views of and commitment to shared leadership. Participants' experiences focused less on influencing one another and more on taking collective responsibility to fuel system momentum and ongoing commitment for change. Taken as a whole, the descriptions of lived experiences with shared leadership offer a picture of a critical mass of individuals who persistently attended to forward movement and momentum for change until there was a rising tide and eventual tipping point for mass movement in the system. In light of the study findings, the researcher offers a definition of shared leadership: taking collective action, responsibility, and accountability for achieving common goals while cultivating the conditions needed to promote change. In other words, shared leadership might be considered a process of creating the demand for, commitment to, pursuit of, and conditions for collective change.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organization change; Organizational change; Leadership

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Nero, Susan;