Home' Independence : Independence Vol 35 No 2 Oct 2010 Contents 6 Independence Vol 35 No 2 Oct 10
of ‘stepping out of line’ – so no
relationships were built with children.
• There was no collaboration between
teachers – everyone stuck to their own
classes and did their job.
• Staff hibernated – therefore there was
no progression within the school.
• The school became stagnant as people
were in too much fear to put themselves
• The Principal’s office was regarded as
the place where one was summoned
to receive a severe reprimand or to be
The culture created in this school,
whether intentionally or unknowingly,
was one of fear. This had a profound
effect on learning and teaching in the
school. Teachers reported, for example:
‘In order to protect yourself and retain
your job you speak to no one, you work
as an individual.’
‘If for some reason you are blamed for
something you make every attempt to
deflect this blame onto another.’
In this school non-teaching staff members
were kept at arm’s length from the
teaching staff, effectively alienating them
from the total school team. Another
effect on staff was the apparent lack of
willingness of teaching and non-teaching
staff to take on responsibility for tasks
or decisions. The attitude was, ‘If it is
not in my job description, it is not my
The relationships between the adults in
the school were ultimately reflected in
staff interaction with the students. Many
students commented that staff did not
respect them as people.
If a culture of trust is not fostered then
developed teachers will never have
the humility to acknowledge their
weaknesses, accept professional criticism
or willingly develop their skills. Without
a culture of trust, teachers will never be
willing to share and collaborate, or learn
from each other while developing the best
learning objects for students. Without
a culture of trust and a willingness to
collaborate, effective and powerful change
bringing professional learning will not
The question is, how can Principals
effectively build trust in their schools?
Trust takes time to develop and but a
moment to lose:
It takes a leader a long time to
build trust, yet one brief incident
of untrustworthy behaviour can
permanently destroy trust. Leaders
are usually allowed a fair share of
honest mistakes. In contrast, dishonest
mistakes erode leadership effectiveness
quickly. (DuBrin 2000:78)
To build trust the Principal must be
authentic, consistent and have integrity.
You must be a person of your word,
consistently following through on what
you say. Seek to under promise and over
deliver. This doesn’t mean that tough
decisions can’t be made; trust can still be
built through challenging conversations
and decisions as long as you remain
consistent, transparent and a person of
Transparency is key to building trust, and
transparency is practically demonstrated
through communication. According to
Hargreaves (2006), the greatest source of
trust in an organisation is communication
trust: clear, frequent, open, high-level
and reciprocal communication. Without
communication trust, feelings and
attributions of suspicion and betrayal
infect the organisation like a plague.
For Heads, I believe a servant leadership
approach is the most effective leadership
style to create a culture of trust in schools.
If a leader’s actions are driven by service
and dedication to a cause, a vision or a
relationship then they are a servant leader
(Blanchard & Hodges 2005:4).
A servant leader will have a vision for
people, a vision that will lead a person
to serve those people above all else, even
above his or herself.
Barth, R.S. (2001) Learning by heart. San
Blanchard, K. and Hodges, P. (2005) Lead like
Jesus. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Bryk, A.S. and Schneider, B. (2002) Trust in
schools: A core resource for improvement. New
York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Covey, S.M.R . (2006) The speed of trust. New
York: Simon and Schuster.
DuBrin, A.J. (2000) Leadership. Madison, WI:
CWL Publishing Enterprises.
Hargreaves, A. (2006) Sustainable leadership.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hargreaves, A. and Shirley, D. (2009) The
fourth way: The inspiring future for educational
change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
CULTURE & VALUES
The ability to establish, grow, extend and
restore trust is the key professional and personal
competency of our time.
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