Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Nancy Hayward, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lilia Savova, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.


Leadership has captured the interest of those in the realms of politics, history, business, religion, and recently, English language teaching. Still a relatively young field, little is known regarding influences, beliefs, and practices of TESOL leaders. This dissertation investigates leadership influences, beliefs and practices of leaders in TESOL, the field devoted to teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Rather than looking at instructors, teacher trainers, professors, materials writers or other specialists, this dissertation examines an additional role for these professionals; ultimately, it is an investigation of TESOL professionals as leaders. To analyze leadership in the field, this study incorporates theory and research from leadership studies, plus data collected through personal interviews, two focus groups, and an online survey of TESOL professionals. Twenty- five state and national leaders gave interviews and 241 participants completed an online survey, contributing data from a cross section of TESOL professionals. Ten themes emerged from interview data identifying the ten most valued leadership practices in the TESOL field: 1). collaborating, 2). listening and employing effective communications skills, 3.) building relationships/peoplework, 4.) serving others, 5). encouraging others, 6). modeling/acting as a role model, 7). using influence to benefit others, 8.) mentoring, 9.) communicating and implementing a vision, and 10.) learning. An analysis finds that TESOL leadership practices can be categorized into four purposes: sharing, empowering, serving, and learning. In addition, this study finds two principle characteristics of leadership in the TESOL field: it is transformative and generative. Transformative leadership in TESOL elevates individuals and institutions to higher performance levels. Generative leaders personify four roles: the Creator/Producer, the Teacher/Guide, the Catalyst for growth and change, and the Pathmaker. Findings from this study expand scholarship and benefit TESOL professionals who wish to study and to develop skills from proven leaders.