Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Organizational Leadership Development

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Hans Klar

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia Deaton

Committee Member

Dr. Jacquelynn Malloy

Committee Member

Dr. Daniella Hall Sutherland


School leaders are accountable for enabling others to produce innovative outcomes within the environment in which the school operates. This complex environment of the school, defined by greater levels of uncertainty, ambiguity, interdependencies, and interrelatedness (Clarke, 2013), is a place where complex problems are best solved with complex responses (Marion and Uhl-Bien, 2011) by the instructional leaders within the system. In light of this understanding, it is important to examine how instructional leaders within the school grow as leaders through the lens of complexity leadership theory. Although existing research examines what instructional leaders need to do to be effective, there is limited research examining how principals intentionally foster leadership capacity in the instructional coaches who coexist as interdependent agents in such a complex adaptive system.

I engaged in a descriptive qualitative study to examine the central research question: How does a principal foster leadership capacity in an elementary school instructional coach in a complex adaptive system through the lens of complexity leadership? I conducted interviews with the principal, instructional coaches, teachers, and a district leader in an elementary school in South Carolina. I uncovered three major findings in this study to describe how the principal fostered leadership capacity in the instructional coaches in the school. These findings included the principal engaging in and modeling interactions that promoted leadership, defining roles and expectations for the instructional coaches in the context of the shared vision of the school, and encouraging visibility and involvement as a leader.

The findings of my study are important because there is limited research examining how principals build leadership capacity in others, especially instructional coaches, through the lens of complexity leadership. For practitioners, this study is essential because I described ways that a principal in one setting builds leadership capacity in instructional coaches to positively impact student achievement and innovative outcomes in the school. In terms of scholarship and research, this study is compelling because I examined distributed leadership and instructional leadership juxtaposed with complexity leadership while focusing on the interactions between the principal and the instructional coaches in one school setting. Because building leadership capacity in others is important to the process of instructional leadership in the complex adaptive system of the school, the findings of my study can be used by educational leaders as well as researchers interested in understanding how to build leadership in others.



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