The purpose of these comparative case studies was to understand how superintendents in urban districts use reform strategies to leverage systemic change to improve student achievement. The study focused on four effective superintendents of Broad Prize for Urban Education winning school districts. It examined leadership traits, core beliefs, behaviors and actions, leadership qualities, and identified commonalities and differences amongst these nationally recognized superintendents. The research questions provided a focus for evaluating the superintendent's selection of reform strategies, the district context in which they were implemented, and the influence of the superintendents' background and experience. The researcher gathered evidence by conducting individual interviews with each superintendent and members of his or her cabinet and by reviewing selected artifacts related to the districts demographics, professional development practices, reform initiatives, and student performance data. The researcher reviewed the data, seeking common themes, while watching for disproving evidence. The central themes related to the leadership profiles of these effective superintendents were: (a) longevity and breadth of service; (b) providing focused professional development; (c) building leadership capacity; (d) utilizing data driven results/monitoring data; (e) differentiating resources; (f) building relationships; (g) hiring the "right" people; (h) building strong board relations; and (i) launching only a few highly focused and impacted initiatives. These findings were consistent across all four superintendents. The findings and conclusions from this study generated recommendations for practice and policy making and recommendations for future research in support of leading and improving schools for increased student achievement. The recommendations are presented as they relate to specific areas of responsibility: school and district administrators, school board members, and policymakers and superintendent preparation programs. Recommendations from this study include: having a strategic plan that is aligned with district goals and actions and supported by stakeholders, hiring "the right leadership team," differentiating resources based on need, hiring a highly qualified superintendent, and providing mentors and coaches to aspiring administrators and superintendents. Recommendations for future research include: conducting additional case studies on the actions of other urban superintendents, possibly including a discrepancy analysis to determine if struggling districts are implementing the successful strategies identified in these four Broad Prize winning districts; examining effective superintendents who took a nontraditional path to the superintendency; and a study of superintendents of large urban districts who are home grown and brought up through the system.