TrustED School Leaders: Intentional Change Agents

A school leader exemplifies trust when he or she is “willing to challenge and actively challenges the status quo.”[1] This is especially seen in how they lead others through change. Maintaining their commitment when the school is going through a time of difficult or stressful transition is essential to keep faculty and staff engaged. Two great challenges exist for school leaders in the area of maintaining the trust of their employees. One is the reality that, “the only constant is change.” The second is effective performance management in the midst of constant change.

For example, in the international setting, where many schools experience a high percentage of annual turnover, the best way to address the challenge is to focus on how leaders approach and embrace change; not as an unfortunate reality but an opportunity – even an intentional strategy for organizational growth.

“A growth-centered strategy simply involves the acceptance of a set of assumptions about the development of school personnel and the use of these assumptions as the basis for administrative decision making.”[2]

Thus, approaching the reality of annual high turnover rates can be viewed as an opportunity for intentional change.

All too often assumptions related to change are negative. However, if leaders flip the mind-set of those assumptions, the benefits to their stakeholders are immense. Change is a core element of healthy schools. In fact, if schools are not in a constant state of flux, they grow stagnant, less competent, and fall short of the continual improvement expectations required by the accrediting body.[3] Trusted and committed leaders always seek how to do school better – and that involves constant change.

For the Christian school leader, this should be even more pronounced as we are called to pursue excellence. Recall the example of Psalm 33:3 (NASB), “Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.” Even in ancient biblical times, the values of change, competence, and an intentional approach that focuses on the positives can be seen.

Committed leaders build trust by helping stakeholders see and know that the change has direction and is positive and progressive, rather than negative or regressive. If the change is not directed or is unintentional, then the negative aspects of change will be experienced.[4] Thus, leaders are trusted when they own the change and do their best to direct the realities of change to the school’s and the stakeholder’s advantage. Demonstrating ownership builds trust.[5]

Intentional changes owned by school leaders, and the unexpected changes that come their way, can all be opportunities for the school to fulfill its’ mission and vision. Now, not all change results in progress, but committed school leaders set a tone and position that is always oriented toward progress and pursuing the fulfillment of the school’s mission and vision. Again, this in turn builds a greater level of trust.

©2017 Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.


[1] Marzano et. al., School Leadership That Works, 692-693, Kindle.

[2] Hoy and Miskel, Educational Administration, 224, Kindle.

[3] Michael Fullan, “Leading in a culture of change,” Leading in a Culture of Change (2001): 169-181.

[4] Elizabeth R Hinde, “School culture and change: An examination of the effects of school culture on the process of change,” Essays in Education 12, (Winter 2004): n. pag.

[5] Rune Lines, Marcus Selart, Bjarne Espedal, and Svein T. Johansen, “The production of trust during organizational change,” Journal of Change Management 5, no. 2 (2005): 221-245.


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