The other leadership: the nature of the leadership experiences of Anglo female middle school principals in a male-defined arena



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This study explored the nature of the leadership experiences of three female middle school principals. It focused on the perceptions of leadership from the viewpoint of Anglo female leaders and how they interacted with the male constructed role of the middle school principalship. This study addressed one overarching question: What is the nature of leadership experiences of Anglo female middle school principals in a male dominated arena? Two supporting subquestions were also addressed: (a) In what way do female middle school principals interpret and interact with societal constructions of leadership based on gender role expectations? (b) What are the perspectives on leadership provided by Anglo female middle school principals, and how do these contribute to new understandings or theories of leadership? This multiple case study used qualitative research methods to explore the experiences of three Anglo female middle school principals in Texas. The participants for the study were chosen using a purposeful sampling which included intensity sampling, homogeneous sampling, and convenience sampling as described by Patton (1990). The participants were three Anglo female middle school principals who were shadowed during campus visits for observational data collection. In addition, two indepth individual interviews and one collaborative group interview were conducted. This study sought to contribute to the limited understanding of the challenges and contributions of female middle school leaders. The study revealed two emerging themes: the middle school principalship is both challenging and sacrificial in nature for females. In regard to how the participants’ gender coincided with the male social construct, the study revealed that gender does make a difference in how females interpret and interact in the middle school principalship. This was evidenced through denial, a lack of awareness, or a conscious or unconscious silence. Additionally, the study illustrated that the participants shared four leadership perspectives: servant leadership, collaborative leadership, instructional leadership, and nurturing leadership. The study concluded with two implications for educational administration practice along with recommendations for further research that could enrich the field of educational administration from a female perspective at the middle school level.