to gradually move her committee
She began by structuring activities for
her committee that helped members
explore their differences by looking at
student assessment data from the interventions to see what actually worked.
Over time, Sally was able to redirect her
committee from its philosophical arguments about literacy to the practical
matter of assisting the students receiving
intervention. Consensus grew around
what was working for kids—and confidence in Sally’s leadership also grew.
The skills and qualities these experiences call forth are heavily weighted
toward the interpersonal and intra-personal: Principals learn that it’s not
just what you know, but also how you
interact with others and present yourself
that shapes your influence. The most effective principals operate
© JOHN BOOZ
Becoming a Person
Who Values Relationships
The third cluster of relational leadership
qualities is a value set rather than a skill
set. The most effective principals operate
from a value system that places a high
priority on people and relationships.
This orientation communicates itself
both subtly and powerfully to staff,
students, and the public, sending the
message that everyone’s voice counts and
everyone’s feelings are important. The
principal’s person-to-person relationships reverberate throughout the culture
of the school.
Can one learn to value relationships?
Some argue that individuals come “
hard-wired” in this respect; certainly, people
have different levels of interpersonal skill
and emotional acuity (Goleman, 1995;
Kegan & Lahey, 2002). But we have
discovered that principals can learn to
value relationships as part of leadership
and, just as important, can learn to
behave in ways that communicate
One approach to this process involves
from a value system that places a
high priority on people and relationships.
a combination of philosophical exploration and personal reflection called the
development of a leadership platform
(Ostermann & Kottkamp, 1995). Principals, whether aspiring or practicing,
write and refine their core beliefs and
values as leaders, focusing particularly
on both pedagogical and relational
dimensions of their work.
In our program, we ask leaders to
develop their own approach to fostering
teamwork and collaboration, identifying
when and how joint decisions and work
are most beneficial for students as well
as the natural limits of such shared
activity. We ask two vital relational questions: How will you form professional
relationships among faculty and staff
that will support the learning of all
students? and What are your definitions
of power and authority; under what
circumstances is their use by a principal
justified? In small writing and discussion
groups informed by readings, principals
receive feedback on their written leadership platforms, learn how others think,
and craft operating principles to guide
their work. An elementary school principal described the heart of this process:
My core beliefs, my vision, as an educational leader shape and are shaped by the
institution and community I am a part of.
This symbiotic relationship helps me
maintain a course toward our shared goal
(vision). It helps me survive and thrive.
Philosophical orienteering of this sort
inevitably brings our leaders face-to-face
with the dominant relational dilemma of
the principalship—the tension between
caring for others and getting things
done. What will I do when my central
office or school board pressures me to
behave in ways that threaten my positive working relationships with the staff?
How will I maintain respectful and open
relationships with resistant or opposi-