This grounded theory study sought to create a viable framework that may help school leaders accelerate the expansion of an authentic 21st century instructional model. The U.S. economy is now more dependent on knowledge work than manufacturing. Yet, many for-profit, non-profit, and public sectors perceive schools as not adequately preparing students for 21st century careers and colleges. However, customary principal-led change is challenging. Leaders face several complex organizational challenges, including a modern-day duty and role expansion that limits time, and the inherent difficulty of human-behavior and organizational change, observed in the fact that schools have deeply entrenched norms: an estimated 150 years of traditional lecture-dominant instruction. As such, a singular research question informed this study: What leadership competencies do 21st century change-savvy school administrators perceive as critical to accelerate successful change to a 21st century instructional model? Using a purposive sampling method, change-savvy school leaders (n = 22) with lived experience were interviewed covering germane topics such as what worked for them, professional development, and change management. Utilizing Charmaz’s (2014) constructed grounded theory coding process and data analysis technique, the results include two key findings: five leadership competencies (discerning, authentic, facilitative, collaborative, and communicative) and the Authentic 21st Century Leadership Framework, which integrates the respective competencies to provide a user guide for the contemporary time-burdened school leader. Ultimately, the study concluded the following: (a) the leadership competencies are essential; (b) the framework provides a supportive guide to accelerate expansion of the 21st century instructional model; (c) 21st century leadership is chiefly collaborative; (d) leader created and sustained growth culture is critical; and, lastly (e) as the 21st century instructional model magnifies in utilization across schools, opportunities for all students improve.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Educational leadership -- Study and teaching -- United States -- Case studies; Technological literacy -- Study and teaching -- Case studies; Organizational change -- Education

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Barner, Robert R.;