Leadership Practices of Successful Elementary Turnaround Principals

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Virginia Tech


Educational leaders have shared concerns of the shortage of qualified candidates applying for principal openings, particularly at challenging schools, such as turnaround schools (Gurley, Anast-May, and Lee, 2015; Kutash et al., 2010). The challenge of turning around a failing school makes it essential to study when and how successful turnaround principals adapt their leadership practices in their unique contexts. Kouzes and Posner (2017) studied leaders at all levels from a variety of organizations. Their research identified five common leadership practices. Good leaders model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart (Kouzes and Posner, 2017).

The purpose of this study was to compare Kouzes and Posner's five leadership practices with what successful elementary school turnaround principals described as performing at their personal best. This research was conducted at a Mid-Atlantic school district, Riverdale Public Schools (pseudonym). Seven successful elementary school turnaround principals were interviewed. The leadership practices of these principals were compared to Kouzes and Posner's five leadership practices to determine where their leadership practices were consistent with what turnaround principals described as their personal best experiences. The information gained will contribute to the knowledge base of prioritizing essential leadership actions for turnaround leadership.



principal leadership, turnaround schools, elementary principal