Leadership Experiences of African American Male Secondary Urban Principals: The Impact of Beliefs, Values, and Experiences on School Leadership Practices

by Greg Henderson

Sep 1, 2015
This qualitative study examined African American male secondary principals' beliefs, values, and leadership practices that contribute to successful urban schools. Narrative inquiry was used to investigate the factors that influenced the leadership practices -- and related education environment success -- of six African American male public school principals from six different secondary urban schools in Ohio. Findings related to participant input led to three primary conclusions: (a) effective African American male principals address broad social and systemic issues that affect student education and performance; (b) effective African American male principals employ an integrated leadership style; and (c) effective African American male principals embrace the dualism of bureaucrat-administrator and ethno-humanist roles. These findings highlight several implications for consideration: (a) social and systemic issues severely distract African American male urban school leaders from their educational focus; (b) attention needs to be given to the critical dual role of African American male principals; and (c) focus needs to be directed toward developing and then hiring qualified African American male principals.
  • The literature on educational leadership highlights the role of the principal as an individual whose actions can exert a strong influence on student outcomes.
  • African American male principals are keenly aware of systemic perceptions and myths regarding their own practices and motivation that influence urban educational environments.
  • Findings related to the practices of African American male urban school leaders emphasized strength, paternalism, and consistency/fairness as important contributors to the success of the urban educational environment.
  • Data from the participants reflected leadership orientations that call for broader, more holistic approaches.
  • This study’s implications highlight three areas of consideration: (a) social and systemic issues appear to severely distract African American male urban school leaders from their educational focus; (b) attention needs to be given to the critical dual role of African American male principals, who must both manage schools and serve as role models for African American youth; and (c) focus needs to be directed toward developing and then hiring more African American male principals.
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