I have been fortunate enough to work with many women leaders in education over the years and one of the essential features of positive collaborative, working relationships is trust.
If you are a leader have you ever stopped to consider the dynamics of your team – do they trust me? And do they think I trust them? How do we grow trust in professional relationships?
The whole notion of trust is hard to define, slippery when handled and often not really acknowledged until it disappears and everyone is aware of its absence. When trust is not there people fail to communicate, they don’t exchange ideas, take risks or problem solve together. Assumptions are made and expectations are low.
The connection between leadership and trust is important, as it is the leader that can cast the vision and set the tone for the work, present and future. But how we grow this trust is vital.
In his Doctoral research Dr Paul Browning (2015) identified 10 key practices that supported trust between school leaders and their team. As a leader it is important to:
1. Admit mistakes
2. Offer trust to staff members
3. Actively listen
4. Provide affirmation
5. Make informed and consultative decisions
6. Be visible around the organization
7. Remain calm and level-headed
8. Mentor and coach staff
9. Care for staff members
10. Keep confidences
The big idea that resonates with my thinking about leadership is that these practices can be developed and learned. As a woman in leadership who wants to improve her skills and develop her staff relationships these practices are doable and can be integrated into your daily work. In my mind Browning’s research testifies to good relationship building and the social side of education. At some level these practices are core to how we relate to people both in our personal and professional world.
My question is what role does gender play in shaping and influencing how we learn, adapt and implement these practices? Much has been written about leadership styles and more research has been undertaken about the intersection between gender and leadership. My own research work focuses on rural women in educational leadership. I am investigating the impact of gender and context on developing leadership and in turn the professional identity that women embody. I can already see how the rural context might be chewing at the edges of some of these practices for women. I am looking forward to seeing it all unfold on the road ahead.