Date of Award

Fall 11-2-2021

Document Type

Dissertation - University of Massachusetts Global access only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Lisbeth Johnson Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Douglas DeVore Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Patrick Ainsworth Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to identify and describe how exemplary Millennial high school principals use power and influence to cultivate an ethical organizational climate and to describe essential tactics Millennial high school principals perceive are essential in the pursuit of an ethical climate.

Methodology: A qualitative case study was used to provide detailed descriptions of the perspectives of six exemplary Millennial high school principals in California and their humanistic approaches to the phenomena of power, influence, leadership, and organizational climate. Case study instruments were developed through the lens of a conceptual framework which captured the educational context, tactical use of power and influence, and cultivation of ethical organizational climates.

Findings: Qualitative findings and data analysis produced nine themes, with the deliberate cultivation of a collective ethical identity and tactics to build and use relationships as prevalent themes. Findings include exemplary Millennial leaders’ belief that ethical leadership promotes an ethical climate, they invest in relationships, use empowerment, shared leadership, and decision-making, openly confront unethical practices, and they use empathy to guide their tactical use of power to cultivate an ethical organizational climate.

Conclusions: The findings of this study affirm that Millennial high school leaders demonstrate attributes of ethical leadership and believe that using power ethically will lead to positive outcomes for students. The leaders in this study value relationships and empathy as primary tactics, gain power by giving it away, use personal power to co-construct an ethical organizational climate, and possess a keen awareness of power dynamics to navigate complex ethical situations.

Recommendations: This study supported the need to recognize and learn from exemplary Millennial leaders’ distinctive use of power to create an ethical organizational climate. It is incumbent upon educational leaders to support and promote exemplary Millennials in the field through coursework, literature, coaching, and mentorship. The ethical use of power and precise terminology on its use should be required professional development for pre-service school leaders and experienced administrators. Exemplary Millennial leaders need to be recruited and retained for positions of influence in policy making and district leadership roles.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.