Shared decision-making and principal leadership qualities

iStock_000010045687XSmallWhat principal leadership qualities encourage shared decision-making? asks a recent study in Education.

Of the five leadership qualities that were at the focus of this study–challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way, and encouraging the heart–researchers found that challenging the process was most linked with shared decision-making in the school, but even that association was relatively weak, report the researchers.

Overall, “there was very little relationship between the leadership behaviors of the principal and the level of shared decision making in schools,” they say. “The five leadership practices may not have appropriate definitions of leadership behaviors which influenced the teachers’ perceptions of shared decision making in their schools.”  For example, one leadership dimension not measured in the study was the nature of the relationships between principals and teachers. Previous research found that a school appeared to be more involved in school decision making if the principal was perceived to be “open, collaborative, facilitative, and supportive,” they write.

For the study, researchers sent 1841 surveys to middle school and high school teachers in a large urban public school system serving 60,000 secondary school students.  Schools with principals who had served in their schools two or more years were selected for the study.  A total of 646 surveys were returned and analyzed.

Other variables that impact shared decision making are communication and staff development, the authors note. A principal must communicate data necessary for informed deicisons. “Oftentimes the principal is perceived as a gatekeeper or filter for information,” they write.Teachers must also be trained in the use of data for problem solving or in leadership skills  required to work in groups.

“From a more speculative perspective, individual leadership behaviors of school principals may have less influence on the decision making culture than the organizational structure and culture of the schools and school districts,” they write.

“Faculty Perceptions of Shared Decision Making and the Principal’s Leadership Behaviors in Secondary Schools in a Large Urban District,” by Don Leech and Charles Ray Fulton, Education, Volume 128, Number 4, pp. 630-644.


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