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Implementation Leadership in School Nutrition: A Qualitative Study



This paper identifies implementation leadership characteristics in the school nutrition setting and places findings in the context of implementation leadership literature.


Fourteen interviews were conducted with school district leadership/staff in an urban school district. Modified grounded theory was employed.


Four themes emerged: (1) understanding of technical/operational intervention details; (2) ability to proactively develop and communicate plans; (3) supervisory oversight; and (4) intervention framing. Themes were consistent with 4 of the 5 dimensions comprising the Implementation Leadership Scale: knowledgeable, proactive, perseverant, and distributed leadership. The supportive domain was not a major finding. An additional domain, how leaders message the intervention to staff, was identified.

Conclusions and implications

Implementation leadership in school nutrition appears similar, but not identical, to leader behaviors present in the Implementation Leadership Scale. School nutrition leaders might consider involving staff early in implementation planning, incorporating technical expertise, and clearly communicating the intervention purpose to support successful implementation. Future research might explore the interplay between leadership and implementation outcomes.

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