Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)


School of Education - Faculty of Social Sciences


The aim of this research is to better understand the role of creativity in educational leadership. As school leaders are charged with the task of shaping learning communities it is important to understand the ways in which they approach this complex challenge. Toward that end, the researcher probed a number of questions: What elements of creativity are evident in the role of the principal? Do these elements impact on leadership decisions? How do social, political and technological changes impact school leadership? Do school leaders see themselves as creative? Are some principals more attuned to the creative aspects of their roles? What are the implications for future training and research? In approaching these questions the ways in which change, leadership and creativity are intertwined was explored.

Using a phenomenological approach, seven principals in Australian independent schools were interviewed. Informed by research in the field, a theoretical model was designed to explore four elements of creativity: person, process, product and place. The participants shared their leadership experiences, highlighting particular creative traits they displayed in their leadership roles, the ways in which they approached challenges, the unique elements of their school communities and the contexts in which their leadership and creativity was exhibited.

The interviews brought to life the complexities inherent in the process of supporting, developing and sometimes redefining the culture of a school. The experiences of the participants exposed the need for flexibility in leadership. Rather than always adopting a preferred style, the principals demonstrated the need for different leadership styles in response to varied challenges. The ideas of creative tension or paradox were a common thread in the narratives of the leaders. The importance of communication, often persuasive in approach, was also highlighted. In regards to creativity the principals demonstrated a number of common traits. Some of these included: strength of purpose, commitment, optimism, resilience and an ability to reflect. Risk taking, problem solving and an ability to oversee a complex web of systems, programs and relationships were also evident. Linked with these skills was an astute understanding of place and time and an ability to creatively balance compliance, tradition and innovation.

The findings of the research demonstrate dynamic links between change, leadership and creativity.