Site-Based Leadership: Extrapolating From Small Business to Charter Schools

Joan Arbisi Little, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota


Using a participant-observer perspective, this comparative case study sought to identify similarities between business and education to contribute to charter school training, leadership development, and school reform. This inquiry is a qualitative comparative case study using a participant observer perspective presented in a scholarly personal narrative (Charmaz, 2006; Nash, 2004; Yin, 2009). The researcher draws inferences from experiences and interviews in an independent, family-owned business and from the study of leadership styles at a Minnesota charter public school. Leadership themes and community relationships are explored to understand the characteristics that lead to and sustain success. Utilizing the business leadership theories of Collins (2001), the charter school leadership findings of Hamm (2008), and the researcher’s life experience in a family-owned small business as a lens, common characteristics of small business and charter school leadership are discovered. Themes are identified that coalesce around passion, community engagement, and teambuilding as characteristics that lead to successful leadership in a small business and a charter public school. Using the themes as a base, community leaders identify future trends in charter school organizational structure and leadership. Leaders contemplating opening or redirecting a charter school can consider this comparison as they create their own leadership training and professional development.