Building on his extensive research into transformational leadership, cognitive information-processing systems and coaching, Dr Tom Cerni, Head of Counselling Services at the College and Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, has been studying the relationship between the way school leaders think and the attitude and performance of their students and staff. In a recent article in the Journal of School Leadership, Dr Cerni, along with Dr Susan Colmar (Sydney University) and Dr Guy Curtis (Murdoch University), shared the fruits of a survey of 88 school principals across Sydney. The survey explored the way leaders process information, using both the rational and experiential systems, and how these systems can assist in solving complex problems. These answers were compared with HSC results and teacher absenteeism to explore the link between the way leaders think, the academic performance of students and the commitment of staff.
Dr Cerni and his colleagues found that school leaders who experienced satisfaction in their role and who demonstrated conscientiousness in the face of complexity had a significant positive impact on student learning outcomes. Leaders who enjoy what they do while being focused on doing things better seem to inspire others to do more than they originally intended and often more than they thought possible. Conversely, leaders who adopted a laissez faire style - avoiding making important decisions and abdicating responsibility - had a demonstrably negative effect on the enthusiasm and commitment of teachers. Their findings seem to support major longitudinal studies in Australia and the United States which link school leadership to teacher recruitment and retention and improved student learning outcomes. Understanding the way leaders think - at whatever level they lead - is a key element in improving student learning outcomes and developing cultures of excellence.
Click here for more on Dr Cerni's research.