Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD, Director; Kathryn D. Bishop, PhD; Robert B. Kottkamp, Ph.D.


California Literature Project, collaborative, Ethnography, leadership relationships, Leadership studies, narrative, transformational leadership


With rare exception leadership scholars and practitioners focus on individuals as leaders. However, to investigate leadership only through the activities of individual leaders is to miss its essential feature, namely, that leadership is a particular kind of relationship in which leaders and followers create changes. Relationships are difficult to describe because researchers cannot observe them directly; instead, they must infer them indirectly. This study investigated leadership relationships in the California Literature Project. An exploration of leadership relationships required that I implement research methods that would support the construction of detailed descriptions of transforming leadership processes. These methods developed in part out of three background assumptions about social science research: (1) social truths are socially constructed and represent only a partial reality; (2) the narrative paradigm and related concepts of true fiction and story shape how a researcher reads and interprets the experiences in the field and, later, authors the text; and (3) the researcher's experiences in the field setting and the written reconstruction of those experiences constitutes two distinct components of the research process. To that end, following an emergent design, qualitative study format, I became a participant observer for a year at the California Literature Project, in which collaborative leadership is part of the organization's stated methods of operation. I attended a project academy and regional summer institute and conducted informal, open-ended interviews with selected members. From my field notes, transcripts, and selected memory, I then reconstructed a translation of the field experiences into an ethnographic narrative of collaborative leadership relationships. The narrative depicts aspects of influence relationships among leaders and followers who intended real changes that reflected their common purposes. From the narrative I develop a leadership framework under the headings leadership, intending changes, common purposes, and influence and power. As a result this narrative contributes to a new metaphor--relationship--for reconceptualizing leadership as collaborative, nonhierarchical and episodic in nature.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access