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Engaged leaders develop schools as quality organisations

Kristen Snyder (Department of Quality Technology and Management, Mid-Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden)

International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences

ISSN: 1756-669X

Article publication date: 15 June 2015




This paper explores the question, “what does it mean to be an engaged school leader in an educational context that promotes standards-based accountability as a model of quality development?” Specifically, what drives educational leaders? What do they do to lead schools as quality organisations? and How do they lead schools as quality organisations?


An ethnographically grounded theory case study was conducted with 16 principles in Sweden, USA and Finland, who participated in a three-year project to lead schools as global learning centers.


Findings showed that school leaders used a variety of leadership styles as they developed worked cultures grounded in a value system, to support student learning and development. Also, work cultures that engaged members of the school and community were critical for leading schools as learning organisations.

Research limitations/implications

The small sample may not be generalizable to all educational systems.

Practical implications

This study provides evidence about the complexities for school leadership today that are not currently addressed in most principal preparation programs. The findings can serve to help inform further development of principal preparation.


The experiences shared in this study provide an alternative perspective about what it is that school leaders do and think about amidst a high-stakes testing context of school development. The grounded theory nature of this study, combined with an ethnographic approach, provides deep insights into the daily working life of engaged school leaders to learn first hand from their dialogue about what it takes to lead schools as quality organisations.



Snyder, K. (2015), "Engaged leaders develop schools as quality organisations", International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 7 No. 2/3, pp. 217-229.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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