Principal leadership behaviors during labor events and the impact on school reform

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


Significant labor events (no contract in effect, mediation, arbitration, and work slowdown or stoppage) are often cited as obstacles to school reform and improvement models. While school improvement models and distributed leadership have the potential to increase staff leadership, improve professional development experiences, and increase self-determination; negative contract events and a lack of relational trust can be an obstacle to school improvement initiatives and reform. This study uses a qualitative approach to examine principal behaviors and relational trust in schools experiencing significant labor events and seeks to determine the factors that foster and deter collaborative reform. Findings of this study have identified behaviors and responsibilities that enable principals to enact second order change in times of significant labor events. The most significant finding was that school improvement work can continue during contract strife. The importance of principal neutrality during significant contract events supports this finding. This theme emerged early in the qualitative study and was universal in both principal and teacher interviews. Without neutrality, relational trust required to lead second order change is compromised. Supporting the finding of neutrality was the ongoing attention to relational trust through principal availability and communication with teaching staff. Research indicates that the responsibility of communication can suffer during second order change. However, a theme of increased communication and input through staff meetings, emails, and personal communication emerged. In both case schools the principals knowingly identified the need to communicate as a means to overcome disengagement by staff during significant labor events.




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