Emotional Leadership Preparation

When we look at all the data available on cognitive, intellectual, and philosophical views of leadership, and their combination with other frameworks, we see the power of emotions. Simply put, emotions generate knowledge, and emotionally acquired knowledge is strongly influenced by teachers’ and leaders’ understandings(or lack thereof) of their emotions. There is hope of a shift in school culture from one of emotional silence, to one of emotional engagement. Such a change would likely impact leader confidence, focus, well-being, and effectiveness, and could challenge leaders to redefine their schools.

The emotional philosophy framework shows progress on four levels. First, there is actual and implied emotional silence, in which emotions and their importance are denied. The next level allows self-evaluation and evaluation of others from an “emotional absolutism” perspective; emotions are considered either right or wrong, and are rewarded or punished according to externally defined rules. However, internal emotional knowledge is denied. In the third level of shifting emotional theory, emotions begin to periodically appear on the leadership agenda. This level is experienced when there is a deeper emotional link with oneself and others.

The fourth stance is that of resilient emotional relativity: a deepened and unified use of emotional knowledge and individual meaning, with others included in daily activities. In this phase, problem-solving and relationship-building are enacted as people learn to interpret emotion and remain calm when they are with others.
There is compelling evidence, based mainly on primary/elementary schools, showing that principal leadership has significant indirect and direct effects on student learning. The indirect effects largely depend on how much leaders create, alter, or refine the working conditions in their schools to nurture positive emotions towards teaching, develop teachers’ instructional skills, and use those skills in the students’ best interests.

On the other hand, the direct effects are based on the nature and quality of the leaders’ relationships with their teaching colleagues and the impact those relationships have on the overall emotional climate in the school. To build a climate of belonging, the leader needs to listen to, appreciate, and honor the feelings and ideas of teachers, and create social spaces and structures in the agenda of the school for genuine dialogue about instructional improvement.

Building a sustainable climate is based on the leaders’ ability and willingness to understand the complex internal states that motivate teachers’ actions, and to develop shared dreams of what the school can be. To achieve success, the leader must keep in mind both his or her own emotions, and those of the teachers. It is also important for leaders to take emotions seriously, and, as a result, engage others in reflecting on the emotional toll of their own work. As we have seen, emotional wounds can provide rich opportunities for fresh perspectives and self-discovery, as well as new learning.

By opening up to their own feelings, leaders are able to connect with others’ feelings. When they listen sincerely to the hopes and ideas of colleagues and staff, their leadership efforts are more likely to shift from directing to enabling. This shift will in turn increase positive perceptions among all stakeholders in the school, as they work together toward a common goal.


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