Defining Leadership Behaviors

How do school leaders create change in school culture?

The first place to start is not social media or branding your school. Instead, a united leadership team begins with defining leadership behaviors. This is not an often-discussed topic, so let’s dig into it a bit.

Three Types of Leadership Behaviors

According to research (download the article on the podcast page), leadership behaviors can be divided into three categories:

  1. Task Behaviors
  2. Relations Behaviors
  3. Change Behaviors

Just reading that list might trigger reflection, and you can see which type of behaviors you exhibit most in your leadership style.

Task Behavior. In school leadership, these are the management tasks of administration such as planning school activities in the next few months, clarifying roles and job descriptions, monitoring teacher and student performance.

Relations Behavior. When you think about the importance of quality relationships at school, you probably think of tasks such as providing support and encouragement, recognizing teachers’ achievements, gathering input when making decisions, and empowering teachers and staff (research on empowerment).

Change Behavior. Change behavior includes those tasks that are related to networking and situational awareness, developing strategy and vision, and encouraging risk-taking and innovative thinking.

Why Define Leadership Behavior in a School?

Really there’s only one thing you can control and that’s your behavior. You can’t control teacher dispositions or morale. You can’t control student outcomes. These are all directly or indirectly the effects of leadership behavior.

Mission, vision, and values matter, but they’re useless if there are no leadership behaviors to match.

When the articulated ambitions and values of a school are not aligned with the leadership behaviors every collective effort is weakened or flat-out undermined.

It’s fair to say, everything trickles down and spreads and vibrates from leadership behavior. That’s why clarity is so important to school culture, particularly at the outset.

Defined Leadership Behaviors are Powerful

Definitions restrict. Restrictions are good if you’re trying to create positive change.

If you take a liter of water and pour it on the floor, nothing powerful happens. It just spreads out.

If you define a channel (think of river banks or water hose) and pour the liter of water, you’ll have a force. Now it can be set to a purpose.

Defining leadership behavior sets a boundary around what’s acceptable and expected from the school leaders. It’s powerful because it says, upfront and with clarity, that this is what you can expect from me, and this is what you can expect from the leadership team. It invites accountability.

This is a massive step for building vulnerability-based trust. It’s the necessary ingredient for creating positive change in a school culture.