Date of Award


Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara Krysiak


The twentieth century theories of quantum physics and chaos theory in mathematics have had an impact across disciplines, but in many ways educational leaders have been trapped in the old Newtonian paradigm. The conceptual portion of this study bridges the paradigms to suggest new ways to view school leadership for the twenty-first century, using New Science constructs, systems thinking, and leadership concepts of business writers Senge (1990) and Wheatley (1992). It argues that such business models are appropriate for school organizations, and builds a conceptual model of a quantum principal who may participate in creating change through transformation (Burns, 1978) and revolution (Alinsky, 1946, 1971).

The empirical portion of the dissertation compares the interaction of change, perceptions of change, and perceptions of the principals' leadership in two New Hampshire high schools over the ten-year period from 1992--2002. One high school changed considerably; the other maintained status quo. Information on principals' leadership styles was gathered by surveying the faculties at the schools one time in 2002, asking for their retrospective evaluations of their principals based on the model of leadership. Follow-up interviews were conducted with the five principals and with six teachers at each school, A leadership profile for each principal was developed from these data.

The findings suggest that change within a school emerges from the interactions of the situation and the leadership styles of the principals. Four of the five principals interviewed were rated "better than average" in leadership by their faculties, yet good leadership "skills" and intent to change did not always result in changes. More systemic change happened in the more disorganized (chaotic) school. Change continued even under the leadership of the poorly-rated principal.

This research suggests that effective leadership for change fosters risk-taking with an emphasis on creating a feeling of confidence and comfort in the process of change and motion, as well as building connection, communication, and capacity among all parts of the system. Processes, inter-relationships, and diverse people's interacting energies create solutions. The New Science paradigm provides a powerful way to re-think the role of leadership in connection with change in schools.