Leadership as organizational practice and its study as a phenomenon have been traced to the beginning of civilization. In the landscape of the 21st century, executives who lead their companies to thrive in the global economy are challenged to have and effectively apply a broad range of leadership skills in their daily work in a constantly changing environment. They have to continuously adapt their behaviors and those of their organizations in order to develop a corporate culture and sustain their competitive edge. Change once was episodic; deliberate, planned, and executed. But in today’s turbulent environment, change is constant and the role of senior executives in leading organizational change is to provide leadership that fosters a shared mindset, new behaviors, and culture. This phenomenological study will examine the best leadership practices of turnaround K–12 public school administrators in LA County who have led a major change effort in their respective organizations. The need for change usually induces a high degree of stress (Kets de Vries & Balazs, 1998; Lichtenstein, 2000), thus the best executives who lead positive change efforts embrace change as their real job and need more than one approach for leading it, ensuring its institutionalization in the organization’s daily practices, hence transforming the organization through an innovation-driven culture. Data were collected from 15 turnaround public school administrators and superintendents in the form of a 12–question, semi-structured interview scheme, which focused on their past cognizance of leading such efforts in their organizations. The key findings of this study generated 94 themes among which 80 answered 4 research questions. Conspicuously, communication, collaboration, situational leadership, and transformational leadership emerged as the best leadership practices of these turnaround K–12 public school administrators. Similarly, participants indicated that having a clear understanding of the school improvement model, involving parents early, understanding the why, empowering others, being one’s own brand, being proactive, improving teacher recruitment and selection, and changing the culture increase the chances of success of a turnaround effort. As a result of the study findings, a framework of recommendations emerged for endeavoring and current turnaround administrators who embark onto similar efforts.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; School administrators -- California -- Los Angeles County -- Case studies; Labor turnover -- Education -- California -- Los Angeles County; School management and organization -- California -- Los Angeles County -- Reserach

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Madjidi, Farzin;