Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Charles S. Hausman

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Second Advisor

Sherwood Thompson

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Third Advisor

James R. Bliss

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


Houston (2007) concluded, "To preserve the possibilities for our children requires leadership, and that leadership is also a critical condition for success. While the educational journey takes place in the classroom and school, the trip is planned, the fuel is acquired, and the steering is done in the superintendent's office" (p. 432). The purpose of this study was to determine the key characteristics and practices needed by school district superintendents to meet the demands of this position in the twenty-first century. The key characteristics were identified by exemplary superintendents who had been recognized for their effectiveness. 55% of the population of AASA Superintendents of the Year and Finalists were surveyed to identify effective superintendents based on their leadership characteristics and practices. The identified superintendents were asked to participate in the study using a questionnaire which included 11 demographic questions, 35 Leadership Characteristics created by the researcher, and the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) by Kouzes and Posner. The data for this research were obtained electronically by using SurveyMonkey.

This descriptive study of the key characteristics and practices of effective superintendent indicates that an effective school superintendent for the 21st century must be centered on having integrity, clear communication, effective board relations, problem-solving abilities, professional credibility, and vision. This study suggested quantitatively that leadership practices "enabling others to act" and "modeling the way" were imperative to the success of the superintendent. It also suggests the importance of combining leadership characteristics and practices for successful leadership and a need for continued research on these characteristics and practices. The findings of this study may be useful to educational leaders, individuals aspiring to the superintendency, as well as higher education institutions offering training and coursework leading to certification.