Date of Submission



The purpose of this research study was to understand better and reconstruct the concept of values-led principalship. In recent times, in response to constant change and uncertainty, there has been a consistent call for a new form of principalship: values-led principalship. Principals are now being urged to allow values to shape their principalship behaviour. In short, values-led behaviour is said to afford the principal the means of providing appropriate school leadership in unpredictable, and even ambiguous, times. However, the assertion that values can play a positive role in a principal's performance needs to be substantiated. Despite their innate appeal, the nature and function of values in human endeavours remains somewhat unclear. This research study seeks to redress this lack of understanding by investigating how knowing personal values might help the principal to be led by these values and, thereby, be able to act more effectively as an educational leader. To this end, this research study is situated within the research paradigm of pragmatic constructivism and informed by the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism. The orchestrating perspective was case study with the boundaries of the case defined in terms of the system of secondary schools operating under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. This case study included an open-ended questionnaire, two closed questionnaires, and a series of three semi-structured interviews with five principals. This research study began with a comprehensive review of literature from psychology, ethics and values theory to establish the relationship between values and behaviour. This review highlighted five important insights in respect to personal values. First, personal values are formed during the general experiences of life. Second, these personal values influence behaviour.;Third, personal values are subjective inner-world phenomena that are more likely to be tacit and subliminal influences upon one's behaviour. Fourth, having knowledge of one's own personal values is not a natural or a common occurrence and the gaining of this particular form of self-knowledge is difficult and requires effort and appropriate processes. Finally, the appropriate process for gaining self-knowledge of one's personal values is through self-reflection and introspection. Based on these insights, the researcher identified four research questions: How knowledgeable are the principals of their own personal values? How have the personal values of the principals been formed? Can a principal gain increased self-knowledge of his or her personal values and the relationship of these personal values to his or her educational leadership behaviour? Does an increased level of self-knowledge of personal values bring about values-led principalship? In general, the findings of this research study suggest that values-led principalship is a simplistic conceptualisation that does not reflect the complex relationships between the inner Self and behaviour. The concept of values-led principalship assumes self-knowledge of personal values and the deliberate application of this knowledge to influence personal behaviour. By not considering the formation of personal values and the inner antecedents of personal values within the Self, any self-knowledge of one's personal values remains notional. Notional self-knowledge maintains the tacit, subliminal influence of personal values on behaviour. Thus, personal values are directing or driving behaviour resulting in values driven rather than values-led principalship. From an instrumental perspective, this finding raises a number of issues in respect to the professional development of principals.;As a consequence, the following propositions are advanced: The professional development of principals should prepare them to incorporate regular self-reflective and introspective practices; The professional development of principals should challenge them to develop a rich knowledge of their inner Self; The professional development of principals should assist them to appreciate how their whole life experience is woven into their leadership behaviour; and Contemporary principals require formal professional mentoring programmes to assist them to more truly clarify and understand the antecedents of their leadership behaviours.

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


233 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education