School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Rebecca Lunde


Rural, Culturally-cohesive, Situational Leadership, Growth Mindset, Fixed Mindset


Education | Educational Leadership | Leadership Studies


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe leadership experiences of rural school principals in K-12 schools in culturally-cohesive communities in Alabama. Three theories guiding the study were Blanchard’s situational leadership theory (Hersey & Blanchard, 1977) as it described different leadership styles and directing others to desired results, Dweck’s mindset theory (Dweck, 2006) by considering how fixed mindset was the inability to think beyond a situation and growth mindset focused on the process of learning and development, and Burns’ and Bass’s (1978) transformational leadership theory in how principals display leadership. Rural principals’ experiences were defined as ways they display leadership in culturally-cohesive communities. The central question was: How do rural principals describe their leadership experiences working in rural schools? The research questions were: (1) How does the culture in a rural, culturally-cohesive community affect the ways school principals make decisions and implement change?; (2) What specific ways do rural school principals display leadership?; (3) What leadership experiences create a fixed mindset for rural school principals?; and, (4) What leadership experiences create a growth mindset for rural school principals? A qualitative research method with a transcendental phenomenological research design was used, and 10 rural school principals were selected to participate. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and photo narratives. Data was transcribed, personal biases were bracketed, significant statements were grouped into themes, and textural descriptions included verbatim examples of participants’ experiences. Structural descriptions described how experiences happened. Composite descriptions combined textural and structural descriptions to give a rich explanation of experiences and how they occurred.