Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Jonathan Greenberg

Second Advisor

Allison Cano

Third Advisor

Marilyn Saucedo


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe how exemplary K-5 principals in Southern California lead from the heart using Mark Crowley’s (2011) 4 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 schools.

Methodology: This study utilized a qualitative phenomenological methodology to study the behaviors of elementary principals. This study, due to current Covid restrictions, included virtual one-on-one interviews that were held via the Zoom online platform. The data collected included audio and video recordings, written transcripts, and artifacts from school and district websites, social media platforms, e-mails, newsletters, and meeting agendas. The population was narrowed for this study to include elementary principals in Southern California. The sample for this study, exemplary K-5 principals from three Southern California school districts, was chosen because participants met the specified criteria for exemplary school leadership.

Findings: Exemplary elementary principals use the following heart-based strategies to achieve extraordinary results: develop collective values and goals, demonstrate transparency and vulnerability, engage in personal conversations with their staff, focus on continuous improvement for all employees, have intentional and hard conversations as needed, and publicly recognize their staff’s accomplishments.

Conclusions: The study supported the conclusions that exemplary principals pull together stakeholders with shared interests, passions, and commitments and solicit their input on collective goals for their work. They know that being transparent, open, and vulnerable helps them to connect personally with their staff, especially when joining a new community of professionals. Additionally, exemplary principals provide their staff ongoing opportunities for personal and professional improvement. Finally, this study revealed that exemplary principals will regularly honor their staff publicly through the use of newsletters, websites, social media postings, and verbal praise during meetings and assemblies.

Recommendations: Post pandemic replication of this study is recommended after school districts and communities have recovered so that in-person interviews can be conducted, and in-person school site observations can be included in the data. School site observations will provide for more thorough and complete triangulation of the data.