Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Carleton Holt

Committee Member

Jules Beck

Second Committee Member

Benny Gooden


Coaching, Leadership, Principals, Urban


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand how coaching support structures enabled and sustained leadership practices of urban principals. The study investigated how the intervention of coaching for academic leaders can serve as evidence based professional development for building leadership capacity. The central focus was on principals' perceptions of coaching engagements over time to identify recurring themes and essential elements of the coach-to-client relationship. With a goal of meeting 21st century school accountability requirements of standards and assessments, the urban district in this study implemented coaching for academic leaders who were selected to participate in the coaching intervention as job- embedded professional development. The district assigned a cadre of trained coach leaders to building principals with the primary goal of coaching academic leaders to attain desired goals. The district's director of professional development was a certified coach leader and had the responsibility of screening applications from principals and assigning coaches. The data collection process for this study included in-depth interviews, direct observations, and review of archival documents. Holistic analysis captured recurring themes and assertions. Essentials of participants' perceptions of coaching were collected through semi-structured interviews, analysis of textual content, coding, and categorizing by themes. The significant themes showed the perceptions of coaching as: (1) Supportive Environment, (2) Relationship Built on Trust, (3) Confidential Conversations, (4) Leadership Support, (5) Significance of Reflection, (6) Benefits of Coaching Language in Communication, (7) Co-Constructor, (8) Thinking Partner, and (9) Trust.

Executive coaches in this study offered urban leaders a unique opportunity to engage in confidential conversations, solution focused planning with a thinking partner, facilitative conversations using effective questioning, and leadership support for accomplishing predetermined organizational goals. Findings from the study indicated that leadership is a lonely place and in many cases there is no one for the leader to confide in on issues that impact the overall success of the organization. Leadership coaching helps fill this void. The executive coaches establish trusting relationships with leaders which fosters open dialogue and genuine conversations to get at the heart of the matter. Leaders are better equipped to accomplish goals and model effective strategies after participating in leadership coaching. Trusting relationships are paramount to the success of executive coaching.

The principals in this study spoke their truths regarding the conditions and support necessary to lead effective schools. Principals valued leadership coaching in building leadership capacity and supporting leader practices. Leadership coaching for principals served as targeted support in a safe, trusting, and confidential environment.