Date of Award

Spring 1-24-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Jonathan Greenberg

Second Advisor

Philip Pendley

Third Advisor

Marilyn Saucedo


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to identify and describe how exemplary directors of special education use the five principles associated with grit (courage, conscientiousness, long-term goals, resilience, and excellence versus perfection) to accomplish extraordinary results in their organizations.

Methodology: This qualitative study was part of a larger thematic research study conducted by nine peer researchers under the guidance of three University of Massachusetts Global faculty chairs. The qualitative research design encompassed a phenomenological model. Data for this study were gathered through a combination of eight semistructured interviews of exemplary directors of special education who met the predetermined criteria for study participation and through a review of artifacts and literature. Transcripts of each interview were coded, allowing me to identify themes that emerged among the responses. Data gathered from artifacts and literature were used to triangulate the research results.

Findings: Examination from the qualitative data from the eight exemplary directors of special education in this study indicated various findings. Analysis of the data resulted in 15 major themes and 446 frequency mentions. From those 15 major themes, six major finding emerged.

Conclusions: The study examined the lived experiences of eight exemplary directors of special education and how they use the five principles associated with grit to accomplish extraordinary results in their organization. Based on the data and supporting literature, four conclusions were drawn: (a) courage makes it possible to stand up and advocate for what is best for students, (b) conscientiousness is enhanced by engaging in goals-focused leadership, (c) optimism and work-life balance builds resilient leaders, and (d) growth-minded leaders believe in the power of continuous improvement.

Recommendations: Based on the findings of this study, six recommendations emerged. Some of the recommendations include research to target a larger population of directors of special education across the United States, research to analyze the role prior experience plays in the development of grit, and a mixed method study investigating the effects of different self-care strategies on the success of directors of special education.