Optimizing School Climate Through Leadership

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Optimizing School Climate through Leadership
Barry Joel Desaine, B.Sc. Management Studies, M.Sc. Organizational Leadership

A school’s climate is influenced by its administrators’ leadership style—by the way they motivate personnel, gather and use information, make decisions, manage change initiatives, and handle crises. It is an essential factor for success as a poor environment can account for as much as a third of all deficiencies. Unfortunately, many administrators fail to appreciate how deeply the climate of their school can affect the performance of both staff and students. This paper explains what is meant by climate and how emotional intelligence and its influences on leadership styles can impact on the climate of a school.

What is School Climate?
School climate has been defined in many ways. One author wrote that school climate refers to "the feelings and attitudes that are elicited by a school’s environment" (Loukas, 2007). Another adds that it is "based on patterns of students', parents' and school personnel's experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures" (Center for Social and Emotional Education). Researchers also list a variety of factors that influence school climate such as: students’ and teachers’ perception of their school environment, or the school’s personality (Johnson, Johnson, & Zimmerman, 1996); the frequency and quality of teacher-student interactions (Kuperminc, Leadbeater and Blatt, 2001); feelings of safeness and school size (Freiberg, 1998); or feelings of trust and respect for students and teachers (Manning & Saddlemire, 1996).

The late Harvard psychologist, David McClelland, postulated that there are six key factors which influence an organization’s working environment: flexibility i.e. how free workers feel they can be innovative; workers' sense of responsibility; the level of standards set; the sense of accuracy about performance feedback and aptness of rewards; how clear the mission and values are to the workers; and the level of commitment to a common purpose. Regardless of how school climate is defined, there is common agreement that organizational climate is affected by the administrators’ style of leadership and that this is based on their emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is "the ability to accurately identify and understand one's own emotional reactions and those of others. It also involves the ability to regulate one's emotions, to use them to make good decisions and to act effectively" (Cherniss & Adler, 2000). It involves four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill. Each of these four areas is made up of specific sets of competencies and corresponding traits as follows:

1. Self-Awareness i.e. the ability to: interpret one’s emotions and recognize their impact; possess a realistic evaluation of one's strengths and limitations; and nurture self-confidence.

2. Self-Management i.e. the ability to: keep disruptive impulses or emotions in check; be honest and demonstrate integrity; manage self and responsibilities; adjust to changing conditions and overcoming hindrances; meet an internal standard of excellence; and seize opportunities.

3. Social Awareness i.e. the ability to: sense another's emotion, understand their perspective, and take an active interest in their concerns; navigate politics, build decision networks and gain insight into the life of the organization; and recognize and meet the needs of others.

4. Social Skills i.e. the ability to: take charge and inspire with a compelling vision; influence others; strengthen another's abilities through feedback and guidance; listen and send clear, convincing, and well-tuned messages; initiate new ideas and lead people in a new direction; defuse disagreements and orchestrate resolutions; cultivate and...
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