A study of democratic leadership as a model for school governance

Eugene Matthew Coffey, Fordham University


Since the late 1970s, America has been engaged in a far-reaching debate about the purposes, organization, and performance of its schools. The debate over school reform has extended from the White House to the schoolhouse. Part of this debate focuses on issues regarding the leadership of schools.^ Traditional forms of leadership will not suffice in a society that is increasingly dependent on the application of knowledge as the primary means of raising productivity and improving the quality of life. To meet the demands of the 21st century traditional forms of leadership need to be altered. This may mean doing away with more traditional forms of leadership and introducing a democratic, collaborative, nondirective approach. And it calls for involving teachers in every phase of planning and decision making.^ This study described and documented school leaders who practice a democratic, person-centered style of leadership. Case study methodology was used to observe two female high school principals in Westchester County, New York. Staff members were interviewed to determine the extent of their shared acceptance of this collaborative style. An attempt was made to provide a sensitive, personal, intimate portrait of these two leaders and their style of leadership.^ Teachers interviewed expressed satisfaction and feelings of positive regard with this shared, collaborative, and democratic style of leadership. Leaders were observed in their daily behavior as they shared in the decision-making process and as they changed the relationships within their schools.^ A cross-case analysis was then used for a measure of comparability. Observations and interviews demonstrated that a traditional top-down leadership approach could be exchanged for one built on caring, mutual support, and encouragement. ^

Subject Area

Educational administration|Secondary education|Educational philosophy

Recommended Citation

Coffey, Eugene Matthew, "A study of democratic leadership as a model for school governance" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9226419.