Date of Award

Spring 4-9-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Julia Hadden

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia White

Third Advisor

Dr. Marylou Wilson


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to the describe behaviors that exemplary superintendents practice to lead their organizations through turbulent times using the leadership attributes of moral purpose, concern for the collective interest, personal temperament, and resilience.

Methodology: This phenomenological study examined 12 exemplary superintendents in California who have led districts with a student population with at least 1,500 students, who have been in the position for a minimum of 2 years in the same district during a crisis period that occurred within the past 5 years, led their districts during turbulent times. Participants were interviewed on an online platform. There were observations and the examination of artifacts included.

Findings: Examination of the phenomenological data collected from 12 exemplary California superintendents found to lead their districts during turbulent times relied on the leadership behaviors of moral purpose, concern for the collective interest, personal temperament, and resilience.

Conclusions: The study supported that exemplary superintendents must build effective communications systems creating regular 2-way communication flow within the community; actively build relationships, which in turn develops trust; are collaborative, which includes listening to and valuing the opinions of others; engage in continual reflection on their own practice to continually improve; develop their own resilience, and share their “why” or moral purpose with their community to successfully lead during turbulent times.

Recommendations: Further research is recommended to benefit active superintendents, training programs, and school boards. How superintendents lead during turbulent times using their personal temperament, on specific 2-way communication systems superintendents used during the pandemic to effectively manage the continually changing status produced by county health departments; how superintendents rebuilt trust after an extended labor strike; how superintendents of large districts work to be present and accessible to their community, lead past mistakes made by their leadership team or the board would be beneficial to support school leaders; and lastly, research on effective support systems to help superintendents lead beyond crisis would also support the important work of superintendents.