Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Dr. Daniele Lyman-Torres

Second Supervisor

Dr. Danielle O’Brien


This interpretive phenomenological study explored the lived experience of rural high school principals in New York State and developed an understanding of why they choose to remain in their role as school leaders. The study answered two research questions: “What role, if any, does self-efficacy play in the sustainability of rural high school principals to stay in their current positions?” and “In what way do rural high school principals in Upstate New York describe their reasons to remain in their positions?” The qualitative research design included semi-structured interviews using a purposeful sample of four rural high school principals in Upstate New York. Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy was utilized as the theoretical framework for this study. Three themes emerged from the research: obstacles facing rural principals, why they stay, and how they stay. Subthemes emerged under each theme which included: work/life balance, work environment, relationships, impact/opportunities, boundaries, and collaboration. As a result of this research, specific recommendations focus on flexibility, creating a systems approach, practicing shared leadership, providing mentorship and positive feedback, addressing the social-emotional health of the principal, normalizing set boundaries, and understanding the rural culture. Upon reading this study, the firsthand accounts provide stakeholders with insight into the practices supporting leadership sustainability in the rural secondary leadership position through the participant's voice. This research lays the groundwork for future recruitment, retention, and succession planning to address the current and anticipated shortage of qualified educational administrative professionals.

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