Date of Award

Spring 2-15-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Douglas DeVore

Second Advisor

Jo Moccia

Third Advisor

Marylou Wilson


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe how exemplary district-level special education administrators lead from the heart using Mark Crowley’s four principles (building a highly engaged team, connecting on a personal level, maximizing employee potential, and valuing and honoring achievements) to accomplish extraordinary results in their organizations.

Methodology: This qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experiences and specific ways in which district-level special education administrators implemented and used Crowley’s (2011) four principles of heart-led strategies to understand the specific experiences and actions of the district-level special education administrators in relation to Crowley’s leading from the heart framework. The researcher was part of a thematic team of 14 peer researchers and five faculty advisors who developed a semistructured interview protocol. Using a nonprobability sampling, nine participants were selected to be interviewed about their lived experiences.

Findings: The findings from the study indicate that district-level special education administrators incorporate Crowley’s (2011) four heart-led principles across all domains in order to accomplish extraordinary results. Semistructured interviews and artifacts revealed 12 themes, 614 references, 13 key findings, and six major findings.

Conclusions: The literature and findings yielded conclusions that described how district-level special education administrators implement Crowley’s four principles of leading from the heart to achieve extraordinary results. Three conclusions drawn are as follows: (a) creating a team with a heart for special education, (b) building and maintaining relationships through intentional presence, and (c) recognizing the work in the four principles is essential.

Recommendations: The researcher recommends that mentorship programs must be developed for implementation of heart-led strategies for special education administrators. To build a community of heart-led leaders, principles discussed in this study must be transitioned from district-level administrators to school-site leadership teams. School-site leadership teams have a significant role not only on students with disabilities but also on all students. Additionally, the findings in this study should be used to train school-site personnel on implementation of heart-led strategies across all settings.