Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Robin Hurst

Second Advisor

Dr. James McMillan

Third Advisor

Dr. Chris Reina

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Barbara Driver


The top leader of an organization influences the organizational culture, and the organizational culture influences the leader. Strategic thinking on the part of the leader is a result of organizational culture and/or will impact organizational culture. This qualitative study is a comparative multiple-case study that examines the relationship between leaders and organizational culture and what the leader’s strategic decision-making and organizational changes indicate about the relationship between leadership and organizational culture. The organizational context of private schools is used to better understand the dynamics between leadership and organizational culture.

This study uses an interview protocol with CEOs of private schools, a macroculture in the United States, to solicit the leaders’ perspectives on their school’s organizational culture and their perspectives on the specific strategic decisions made by those leaders in the context of that organizational culture.

This study focuses on six different schools in Virginia, all approved through accrediting procedures by the Virginia Council for Private Education -- a shared organizational context. Individual focal points for data collection and analysis include individual school websites, published school documents, and required accreditation documents as well as structured interviews with the CEOs of each school. This study examines the cycle of influence that the leader has on the organization through strategic thinking and the influence that the organizational culture has on the leader.

Three findings expressed how the leader influences the organizational culture. There were also three findings on how the organizational culture influences the leaders. Two additional findings are on what change indicates about the relationship between the leader and the organizational culture. These findings reveal that a focus on relationships in the school, a willingness to target specific growth for the individual school, and goals that were expressed spiritually as well as academically are key to the leaders. The study also found that the school cultures identified strongly and positively with that of being a family, spiritual focus operationally distinguishes the school cultures, and spiritual identity is also expressed as the relationship the school has to church. Two findings were identified relating to strategic decisions and change; these findings were that evidence of change should be visible and explicit within the organization and organizational change relates directly to focus for growth from the leader.

These findings from this study support the conclusions that 1) Christian school leaders have a direct influence on the values and direction of the school’s organizational culture; 2) the Christian school’s organizational identity has a direct influence on the focus of the leader, and 3) changes targeted in Christian schools reflect the focus of the leader on growth. Findings from this research suggest that organizational culture is highly contextualized and as a result strategic thinking and decision-making on the part of the leader are also highly contextualized. Contextualization increases as the leader seeks to grow the organization or to change the organization. Understanding contextualization that exists, and how organizational culture changes as strategic decisions are made by the leader, has implications for further research in effective leadership, effective change, strategic thinking, and growing effective organizational cultures including private and public institutions of higher education and public and private corporate institution.


© Julia Tucker-Lloyd

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission