Authority and School Culture

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Authority and School Culture

ASSIGNMENT #1: Loose vs. Tight Leadership

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The transition from peer to leader, may be a challenging one. As you navigate your new
role you may see your relationships with former peers change, as you establish new
professional and personal boundaries. For some new leaders this can be awkward,
while other may see it escalate to palpable tension, if not managed properly. It is
especially important for new leaders to fully comprehend and be able to apply the
principle of loose vs. tight leadership.


1. After reading Bruford (n.d.) on Loose vs. Tight Leadership, write 2-4 well
developed paragraphs reflecting on your thoughts/ reactions to the topic. In
establishing professional boundaries as a new leader: What areas do you
anticipate being tight on? Why? What areas will you lead loosely? Why?
This should be in reference to leading your faculty and staff or other internal
stakeholder groups.

2. Cite evidence from the course readings and/ or other scholarly evidence to
support your arguments.

ASSIGNMENT #2: Culture vs. Climate


While culture and climate are often used interchangeably, they are in fact two very
different things. While one is situational, the other remains more permanent. As a new
leader, it will be important for you to have a firm understanding of the difference
between the two, to guide your actions.


1. After reading Gruenert, S. (2008), write 2-4 well developed paragraphs
addressing the prompts below. Cite evidence from the course readings and/
or other scholarly evidence to support your arguments.

● In your own words, summarize the difference between climate and culture in
educational settings. Provide practical examples of each in your summary.

● In your opinion which is more important, culture or climate? Why? If you feel
they are equally important, discuss why.

● Share one thing a new leader can do to positively impact the climate and one
thing a new leader can do to impact the culture of their institution, department
or program.

● How do leaders generate accurate and usable information about the current
and desired state of the institution, program or department?

ASSIGNMENT #3: From Colleague to Leader

“In order for administrators to address negative responses effectively, they must first
recognize that such responses may take a variety of forms” (Gorton & Alston, 2012, p.

You have learned about authority and organizational culture. This assignment gives you
the opportunity to apply and demonstrate mastery of what you have learned. The case
study that you will examine for this assignment, illustrates a scenario which you could
encounter as you transition from colleague to leader.


1. Read the case study From Teacher to Administrator found on page 230 on
Gorton & Alston (2022).

2. Write a 3-5 page paper addressing the following:

1. If you were the principal, what would you do in this situation?
2. What assumptions would you make?
3. What actions would you take, if the teachers did not buy-in to your

4. How might your actions impact the culture of your school?
5. After reading this case study, how might you gain buy-in as a new

3. Support your answer with evidence from the course reading or other scholarly

sources. Be sure to cite and reference your sources in APA format.

Required Reading Materials:
Bruford, R. (n.d.). What Things Should We Keep Loose or Tight in Our Schools.

Gruenert, S. (2008) School Culture, School Climate: They Are Not The Same.

Gorton, R. (2022). School leadership and administration: Important concepts, case studies, and
simulations (11th ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education (US).

Chapter 3: Authority
Chapter 6: Organizational Culture
2 From Teacher to Administrator

Gorton, R. (2022). School leadership and administration: Important concepts, case studies, and
simulations (11th ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education (US).

CHAPTER 3: Authority, Power, and Influence

▪ Standard 1:
Mission, Vision, and Core Values
Effective educational leaders develop, advocate, and enact a shared mission, vision, and core
values of high-quality education and academic success and well-being of each student.

▪ Standard 2:
Ethics and Professional Norms
Effective educational leaders act ethically and according to professional norms to promote each
student’s academic success and well-being.

▪ Standard 3:
Equity and Cultural Responsiveness
Effective educational leaders strive for equity of educational opportunity and culturally
responsive practices to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.

▪ Standard 4:
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Effective educational leaders develop and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of
curriculum, instruction, and assessment to promote each student’s academic success and

▪ Standard 5:
Community of Care and Support for Students
Effective educational leaders cultivate an inclusive, caring, and supportive school community
that promotes the academic success and well-being of each student.

▪ Standard 7:
Professional Community for Teachers and Staff
Effective educational leaders foster a professional community of teachers and other professional
staff to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.

▪ Standard 9:
Operations and Management
Effective educational leaders manage school operations and resources to promote each student’s
academic success and well-being.

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Any administrator engaged in making decisions, mediating conflict, introducing change,
supervising teachers, or any other administrative task or activity should have a reasonable basis
for action rather than behaving idiosyncratically or capriciously. In a bureaucratic organization,
such as a school district, that basis is typically called authority. Authority can be defined as “a
right granted to a manager to make decisions within limitations, to assign duties to subordinates,
and to require subordinates’ conformance to expected behavior.” It is the authorization to get
things done or accomplished. Authority is, therefore, power-conferred, allowing an administrator
the right to “decide, direct, or control.”


There are several possible, reasonable bases for an administrator’s authority in a particular
situation. First, authority may come from “higher up.” It may be derived from a governing board
or a superior within the organization. This type of authority is generally referred to as legal
authority. Second, authority may come from tradition. An administrator may possess authority in
a particular situation simply because administrators have traditionally possessed authority in
such situations. Thus people continue to recognize that tradition by accepting the administrator’s
attempts to exercise authority. According to data from one major study of education, “most
teachers do what their principals ask of them because they feel that their principals have a
legitimate right to make demands.” Third, authority may be earned or perceived as being
deserved. In other words, an administrator may be able to exercise authority successfully because
people respect the person or the position. Therefore, they are willing to allow their behavior to be
directed by a particular person whom they hold in high esteem and consider worthy of their trust,
irrespective of how they judge the merits of the directives.

However, because an administrator’s authority is usually believed by school boards to be either
inherent in the position or associated with the assigned responsibilities, some of the specific
elements and scope of that authority may not always be defined.9 This lack of specificity can
sometimes cause problems, especially if the administrator is not supported by superiors or if
those under his or her authority resist. As long as superiors back the administrator, however, and
as long as the people who respond to the administrator’s exercise of authority believe it is the
administrator’s right to exercise it, either because of the position in the organization or for some
other reason, no serious problems may occur. This is true, despite the fact that the nature and
limits of the authority may have never been fully defined.


Cooper addresses the myths that currently operate in regard to the premises underlying
assumptions about where authority for school reform resides. He argues that in educational
settings, there are two separate—even competing—bases of authority.
Administrators base their authority on their status in their organizational hierarchy, be it as
principals, central office supervisors, or district superintendents. Their expertise is derived from
their position in the hierarchy and their specialized knowledge of school system operations and

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Teachers base their authority on their knowledge of the subject matter and on their expertise in
pedagogy as it relates to their students. Superintendents speak generally about curriculum reform
measures, whereas teachers can explain how a particular objective worked with a special group
of students. Teachers believe that they have authority and control over children and classrooms,
whereas administrators believe that all the authority and control emanates from them, that is,
top-down control. Unfortunately, these assumptions or beliefs can constrain genuine calls for
reform from parents and the community because teachers and school leaders each believe they
have proper authority. These myths impair innovations initiated by top leadership because
teachers are not part of the process.

Ogawa and Bossert assert that the “medium” and the “currency” of leadership lie in the personal
resources of people. This can be true of teachers as well as administrators. The more resources
people have and the kinds of resources they possess or have access to can give them greater
power. On the basis of their review of studies on power, Fuqua, Payne, and Cangemi conclude
that “the currency of leadership, essential to influencing others, involves a wide variety of
factors.” Eight such factors are listed by these authors: support systems (participation in
networking opportunities), information (knowing where to find information and obtain it quickly,
which encourages the practice of good listening), credibility (attaining respect and trust through
demonstrated abilities and trustworthiness), visibility (being noticed as one who takes on
difficult tasks and works hard at them), legitimacy (being recognized and commended by
respected persons in positions of power), persuasiveness (effectiveness in winning others over to
one’s viewpoints through one’s confidence, personality, and appeals to reason and emotions),
charisma (a combination of qualities that add up to a personal dynamism or aura that draws
others), and agenda setting (in the words of Fuqua et al., “knowing when meetings will be held
and accessing the group leader to put items on the agenda at just the right time”).

Leadership shapes the systems that produce the patterns of interaction and the meanings that
other participants attach to organizational events. As principals fulfill their roles, their ability to

influence the organization without dictating their authority affects the productivity of the
organization. Whereas authoritarian leaders, intent upon control, undermine the efficiency of an
organization, those leaders who work from an inclusion perspective find themselves supported
by their personnel. This, consequently, enhances the entire organizational structure. Fuqua and
his associates refer to Kanter’s studies of corporations and her findings that those leaders who
relied more on their personal power than on their job title or credentials were the leaders most
able to mobilize resources, instill confidence, motivate those under their authority, and encourage
their creativity.

A reorientation and a rethinking of the current paradigm of authority and of who controls what in
our schools must occur before any meaningful reform measures can be jointly implemented by
teachers and administrators, as well as by the community. This reorientation issue means that an
administrator, especially one new to a school or school district, should give high priority to the
identification and understanding of sources that grant and limit authority.

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As the previous discussion makes clear, the administrator’s authority may be derived from more
than one source. An important step, then, for any administrator is to ascertain the specific nature
and extent of the authority to carry out the responsibilities and to take action when needed.
Figure 3.1 identifies a number of possible sources that may, formally or informally, grant an
administrator the authority to act and that may also place formal or informal limitations on the
administrator’s prerogatives to exercise authority. In other words, each of the sources identified
in Figure 3.1 can potentially serve a dual function, that is, to grant authority and to restrict
authority. Authority once granted is not always permanent. Zirkel and Gluckman remind
administrators that in a time of downsizing, middle managers’ jobs are at risk. In school systems,
the middle managers are the principals and assistant principals. Members of both groups can
quickly find themselves stripped of authority as they are moved from an administrative role to a
teaching reassignment.


A school administrator can usually determine, for the most part, the specific nature and extent of
authority by examining the job description, the school board policies, and the district’s master
contract. The prerogatives to exercise authority may also be broadened or limited, however, by
the superior’s expectations,16 state law and regulations, federal court decisions, and a number of
other elements that are identified in Figure 3.1. For example, the same superintendent who grants
a certain type of authority can also take it away or restrict it in some manner. The same faculty
members who, through their expectations, informally grant their principal the authority to take
certain actions can change those expectations and remove their support.

Although the number of potential sources of limitations presented in Figure 3.1 is large and may
seem overwhelming to some readers, an administrator’s initial response should be to investigate
policies, regulations, expectations, and conditions in the principal’s own school situation rather
than assuming a certain pattern of limitations. (For further discussion of reference group
expectations, see Gorton and Thierbach-Schneider.) Some of the potential sources of limitations
identified in Figure 3.1 may not be actual constraints in a particular school district.

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For example, under “District” in Figure 3.1, “Principals’ Norms” are listed as a possible source
of limitation to the exercise of authority. Although rarely discussed in the professional literature,
a principal’s peers in the school district can develop norms that may limit to some extent what a
principal can do in school. These peer norms can be especially powerful in influencing the
behavior of a new or “outer-directed” principal. It is not inevitable that a new principal will find
the norms of peers limiting the exercise of authority in the school. In many school districts the
norms of the principals are not well developed, nor is there much evidence that sanctions would

be imposed by other principals unless the behavior in question was extreme. Some beginning
principals have been assisted in gaining an understanding of peer norms, job expectations, and
clarification of subtle signs and signals by implementation of a “buddy system” or mentoring
program. The norms of the other principals in a school district do, however, constitute a potential
source of limitation on a principal who wishes to exercise authority in school, and therefore the
importance of these norms needs to be weighed.

Another example of a potential source of limitation on a principal’s exercise of authority is the
principal’s own perception of policies, expectations, and conditions. If an administrator perceives
a condition as a limitation of authority, then it is a constraint, regardless of whether any other
administrator in the same situation would perceive that condition to be restrictive. For instance,
some principals who assume a position at another school are reluctant to change any school
procedures or practices that have been in existence for a long time because they believe that such
changes might upset certain people. Although there is nothing necessarily wrong with
proceeding cautiously in a new situation, other principals who face the same circumstances
would not perceive the possible negative reactions of others to change as a constraint on their
authority. If they were convinced of the need for change, these principals would take whatever
steps were necessary to bring about the change. The latter group of principals is not necessarily
exercising authority effectively; it is simply that this group does not perceive the same conditions
as a constraint to the exercise of authority as does the first group of principals in our example.

A school administrator should not be intimidated or immobilized by the possibility of constraints
on existing authority. The wise administrator, however, will make few assumptions about having
authority to act, and will carefully and objectively examine the situation to determine the limits
and the strengths of the various sources of authority. The administrator will also be constantly
aware of a characteristic of formal authority that Blau and Scott have perceptively observed,
namely, that formal authority only “promotes compliance with directives and discipline, but does
not encourage employees to exert effort, to accept responsibilities, or to exercise initiative.”


School administrators exercise authority in a variety of ways. For example, they make decisions,
promulgate rules and regulations, interpret policies, and issue directives. The purpose of
exercising authority should be to bring about some desired response from others. The ideal
outcome would be the acceptance of the administrator’s right to exercise authority, along with
willing cooperation in carrying out the administrator’s expectations. Although this ideal is
frequently recognized in school administration, it is not always achieved.
Simon has suggested, based on earlier work by Barnard, that subordinates’ characterization of
the administrator’s exercise of authority can range from “clearly unacceptable” to
“unquestionably acceptable,” with several degrees of variation in between. (Wilkes and

Blackbourn have devised a useful instrument for measuring the degree of acceptability of various
kinds of administrative directives to teachers.) Whether or not people will find the
administrator’s directives acceptable would appear to depend on a number of factors, including
the personality of the administrator and the way the authority was exercised, as well as the
personality and needs of the recipients of the directive. For example, research found that teachers
were more likely to accept the directives of the principal when the administrator was perceived
as strong in the leadership dimensions of both consideration and initiating structure.

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Negative Reactions

Most administrators at one time or another will encounter unavoidable negative reactions when
they attempt to exercise authority. In order for administrators to address negative responses
effectively, they must first recognize that such responses may take a variety of forms. In
Peabody’s study of an elementary school faculty, nine different types of negative responses were
identified that could result when administrative authority is perceived as unreasonable.

1. The teachers may consciously question the order but accept it as binding.
2. The teachers may inform the administrator of their views and seek to be converted to the

administrator’s point of view while complying with the order.
3. The teachers may discuss the situation with the administrator and try to work for change

while complying with the order.
4. The teachers may attempt to gain support for their contrary views by appealing to

5. The teachers may go around their superior and try to gain the support of those above in

the hierarchy or people from the outside.
6. The teachers may discuss the order, but ignore, evade, or try to modify it while seeming

to comply.
7. The teachers may ignore, evade, or try to modify the order without discussing it.
8. The teachers may openly reject the order.
9. The teachers may transfer or resign.

The type of negative reaction that teachers display toward the exercise of administrative
authority would undoubtedly depend on many situational factors. In most circumstances,
subordinates are unlikely to reject openly the exercise of administrative authority or resign
because of it, unless the authority has been exercised in an extremely arbitrary or capricious
manner. Staff members may react to what they perceive as the unreasonable exercise of authority
by responding in one or more of the first seven ways identified in Peabody’s study.

Responding to Negative Reactions to Authority

When encountering a negative reaction to the exercise of authority, an administrator should first
attempt to diagnose the reasons why it is occurring. This approach may not be the initial
predisposition of many administrators when they encounter a negative reaction to the exercise of
their authority. Instead, they may become upset or defensive and try to impose their authority on
those reacting negatively. An administrator who attempts the latter may believe the power exists
to impose authority, but, as discussion in the next section will make clear, an administrator’s
power is limited and should always be verified before it is used. Although to some extent these
emotions are normal and understandable, the thoughtful administrator will quickly gain control
over such tendencies and will try to avoid doing anything that might exacerbate the situation.
The administrator should also try to understand the reasons for a negative response to authority
in order to be in a more knowledgeable position to take appropriate steps.

Also, it needs to be emphasized that the questioning or challenging of authority is not necessarily
bad and can be instructive if its causes are understood. Although organizations (especially large
bureaucracies) seldom encourage dissent and frequently do not tolerate it, a negative reaction to
the exercise of authority may signal the inappropriate use or understanding of that authority.30
Teachers, one of the groups that will be a recipient of the administrator’s authority, frequently do
not consider themselves to be subordinates or employees working for a superior, but as
professionals whose expertise and autonomy must be respected.

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Diagnosing the Problem through Discussion

The key for an administrator who encounters a negative response to authority is to try to
diagnose the causes of the reaction by first conferring with the parties involved. The initial
inquiry should be along the line that “perhaps there has been a misunderstanding.” An effort
should be made to avoid putting the other party on the defensive, and an attempt should be made
to understand the other person’s frame of reference before explaining the administrator’s own
position. In this kind of a situation, the use of concepts from “The Administrator as a Recipient
of Communication” in Chapter 4, along with concepts from Chapter 5, “Conflict Management,”
will be very important.

Examining How Authority Is Exercised

If a negative reaction to the exercise of authority persists, the administrator will then need to
make a judgment about whether the authority was appropriately exercised. Boucher offers
administrators the following suggestions for giving criticism in a way that motivates others to do

a better job: (1) See yourself as helping someone improve—you are now a teacher or coach, (2)
express sincere concern as you share ways for this individual to be more successful, (3) choose
the right moment to offer criticism, (4) drop the word “should” from this conversation (“shoulds”
make you appear pedantic and rigid), (5) make a conscious effort to avoid appearing that you are
more interested in achieving compliance than in helping the other person improve, (6) discuss
how the person will grow and benefit from following the suggestions you are making, (7) be
specific—vagueness creates anxiety and doubt, which often makes the situation worse, and (8)
be prepared to receive criticism yourself—you’ll be perceived as a credible source.

Dealing with Insubordination

Before judging whether authority was aptly exercised, the administrator may want to consult
with superiors, as well as examine school board policies, the master contract, and any other
sources that are used as a basis for exercising authority. If the basis for the administrator’s
exercise of authority is sound and if the original objective sought is still desirable and attainable,
the administrator should insist that the authority of the administrator be obeyed. No administrator
should permit the reasonable exercise of legitimate authority to be ignored, evaded, or rejected.
Such responses to the exercise of legitimate authority represent possible insubordination and, if
permitted, could weaken the authority base of an administrator and could lead to more
widespread noncompliance.

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The administrator should keep written, dated documentation of the initial negative reaction to the
exercise of authority and of all subsequent meetings, contacts, correspondence, and reactions
between the administrator and others involved in the situation. An excellent monograph that
provides further guidelines to preparing needed documentation has been published by the
National Organization on Legal Problems of Education and is entitled A Documentation System
for Teacher Improvement or Termination.

Insubordination and its variants under applicable state employment laws defy exactitude and
uniformity. Nevertheless, the odds tend to favor school districts as long as administrators resist
knee-jerk reactions and document repeated efforts to be clear, reasonable, and diligent in their
directives and the teacher’s intentional noncompliance.

Gaining Compliance from Resisters

The specific steps that an administrator should take to gain compliance from those who are
resisting or evading the exercise of authority will undoubtedly vary according to the
circumstances. When continued opposition is likely, given the results of an initial conference

with the parties involved, the administrator will want to confer with superiors to obtain their
ideas and support of certain courses of action. Also, the legality of proposed administrative
actions and due process requirements need to be clearly understood and followed.
In most cases, unless the negative response to authority is extreme, it will be better for the
administrator to begin insisting on compliance with authority gradually by conferring again with
the parties involved. At this second meeting, the administrator should make sure that whoever is
resisting or evading the directive fully understands the possible implications of such actions.
Before the meeting is over, if the continued reaction of the other party is negative, then the
administrator should explicitly state expectations. If the reaction continues to be negative, then
the administrator should issue a written warning to the other party that disciplinary action will be
taken if compliance is not forthcoming by a certain date. Before writing this letter, the
administrator should consult with superiors and obtain legal guidance. At some point, stronger
negative sanctions may need to be used, including recommended disciplinary measures or even
dismissal of an employee if compliance cannot be obtained. While an administrator should want
people to accept the administrator’s legitimate authority and carry out the directives
cooperatively, in the final analysis, when people are reacting negatively, there must be

Guidelines for Exercising Authority Successfully

There are no doubt numerous specific reasons why people question, challenge, or resist authority,
some of which were discussed in Chapter 2, “Decision Making.” Chester Barnard indicated in
his analysis of the authority problem in organizations that a person can and will accept authority
when four conditions prevail: when the individual understands the order, when there is a belief
that the order is consistent with the perception of the purposes of the organization, when there is
a belief that the order is in the individual’s own personal interest, and when the individual is
mentally and physically able to comply with the order.

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Based on Barnard’s concept of the prerequisites for compliance with authority, it would appear
that administrators should keep in mind the following guidelines in issuing directives or orders:

1. In deciding on the need for a directive and in its formulation, presentation, and execution,
administrators should consider how the order will affect the recipients personally,
recognizing that people are likely to question or resist directives that they feel are not in
their best interest.

2. Administrators should consider the strengths and limitations of those who will be
expected to implement a directive. They should avoid issuing orders to people who lack
the necessary motivation, skill, or training to carry out.

3. They should explain thoroughly the rationale behind each directive and its relationship to
the goals of the organization. They should not assume that people understand the reasons
for an order or that people will necessarily see the logic or value of an order.

4. They should leave room for modifying the original order or its method of
implementation. Flexibility and a willingness to compromise when appropriate are key
factors in exercising administrative authority successfully.

5. They should issue only those directives they are relatively sure either will be obeyed or
can be enforced if resisted. Orders that cannot be enforced in one situation weaken the
administrator’s authority for successfully issuing orders in other circumstances.

Although some administrators and supervisors may be reluctant to exercise authority, particularly
in light of the human relations and empowerment emphasis in school administration and
challenges by various groups to administrative authority, it should be clear that if the
administrator is to perform assigned responsibilities effectively and work with others in the
improvement of the organization and the achievement of its goals, it may be necessary to utilize
authority. The use of authority is an inescapable aspect of an administrator’s job. The important
question, then, is not whether authority should be exercised, but how and in what circumstances.
The preceding and the following discussion should be helpful to an administrator in answering
that question.


Although many administrators and even some theorists use the terms authority and power
interchangeably, these concepts differ in both function and implications. The successful use of
administrative authority is based first on the willingness of subordinates to comply with an
administrator’s expectations and second on the fact that the authority being exercised has been
granted by one or more of the sources in Figure 3.1. When these two conditions are adequately
met, an administrator does not need power. Power represents the “capacity or potential for
effecting desired results in one or more persons that would not have otherwise occurred.”
According to this definition, administrators possess legitimate power if they can get people to do
what the administrators want them to do, even when people resist or refuse to accept authority in
a certain situation.

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Power as Securing Compliance versus Power as Empowerment

The traditional compliance model of power has been replaced with concepts of personal and
collective empowerment. In regard to the latter, power is viewed as the ability to predict the
consequences of one’s actions in complex situations as well as the ability to maintain individual

control over one’s feelings and behaviors. The administrator or supervisor serves primarily as the
catalyst or charismatic leader who prompts individuals to transform themselves at the same time
they transform the social environment. Beaven suggests that more attention needs to be focused
on those who actually change themselves; on their response to leader control; and on the
phenomenon known as charismatic, transformational leadership.

Types of Power

What types of power are available to an administrator? Several theorists have proposed
somewhat useful paradigms to answer this question. For example, Etzioni advanced the
proposition that there are three general kinds of power: (1) coercive power (e.g., suspending an
employee), (2) remunerative power (e.g., control over resources), and (3) normative power (e.g.,
control over prestige). Parsons has identified four types of power or influence, using the terms
interchangeably: (1) persuasion, (2) inducement, (3) activation of commitment (e.g., use of
negative sanctions to influence another person’s intentions), and (4) deterrence (e.g., negative
sanctions to control a situation). Furthermore, French and Raven, in what is probably the most
elaborate proposed model of power, have suggested six types of power.
Reward power: Capacity to provide rewards, such as higher salary or better assignment.
Coercive power: Capacity to provide punishment or negative consequences, such as teacher
Legitimate power: Power derived from a position or a set of formal relationships.
Referent power: Tendency of other individuals to be attracted by and to identify closely with the
Expert power: Special knowledge or skill, for example, supervision, scheduling, or group
Informational power: Ability to control the flow of information that is needed to get things done

Table 3.1 presents examples of the six types of social power identified by French and Raven.

Paul Hersey and Walter Natemeyer have developed a Power Perception Profile instrument to
assess why someone responds to another’s attempts to exercise power. They expanded French
and Raven’s five power types into seven, adding connection power based on the perception that
the supervisor has relationships with influential people inside or outside the organization and
information power based upon the leader’s possession of or access to information perceived as
valuable to others. This latter power base is important to others because they need this
information or want to be “in on things.”

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Also, Buhler stresses the importance of recognizing that power is not unilateral but is generally
shared and distributed. Teachers, for example, hold a great deal of potential power in the degree
of compliance and in their willingness to comply. Buhler further believes that “most employees
throughout the organization have the ability to make their boss look bad.” This important
political element can often be overlooked by the principal. There is also power in terms of whom
teachers are aligned with and the great loyalty they have for these individuals. For example, in
business, when a senior executive leaves the company, a whole group generally follows. In
school systems, administrators and teachers may not have the flexibility to follow their superior
immediately, but the information and communication network of loyal past employees is
nevertheless powerful and influential. People tend to group together in order to achieve and
sustain power. Particularly in educational settings, power should be used, when possible, as a
shared resource.

Power Sharing and Teacher Empowerment

Power sharing encourages teachers, principals, department chairs, counselors, and other staff at
all levels of the school to be involved in decision making without feeling coerced or
manipulated. A study on empowering teachers at the elementary school level found personal
power of the principal who incorporated referent, information, and expert subordinate perception
bases is highly valued by teachers. Teachers, however, resent principals who falsely see
themselves as relying on personal power when, in fact, they use positional power bases such as
reward, coercion, connection, and legitimate authority. Connection power, through which the
principal has a personal relationship with influential people inside or outside school, could be a
source of personal power as well. Yet teachers in this same study tended to “devalue their
principals’ connections as being part of an old boy’s network. They resented the fact that their
principals with connections spent a good deal of time away from the schools.”44 Accessibility is
an important quality in effective leadership.

“Giving teachers greater power is a major way to make them more professional and to improve
their performance.” Teachers should have an impact on policy decisions and should work in a

collegial relationship, “sharing power” with administrators. Through this relationship, principals
become facilitators of school goals, empowering teachers and allowing them to generate their
own ideas. This, in turn, gives more dignity to the profession of teaching. As teachers become
more empowered, they will have to accept the burden of responsibility. Whereas in the past
teachers could “blame the administrators for problems,” this blame should decline as teacher
empowerment increases. In order to empower teachers and expect them to be successful in
carrying out their responsibilities, they must be educated and trained in the skills necessary for
appropriate decision making.

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Power and Perception

In examining the various conceptualizations of power, a question could be raised about whether,
in some cases, the concepts that the theorists are presenting should not more properly be
characterized as sources or types of social influence rather than power. Types of “power,” such as
control of prestige, persuasion, and referent and reward power, seem to represent sources of
influence rather than sources of, or types of, power (more will be said later about influence). It is
difficult to see how these types of power could be used to force someone to comply with
authority if the person was determined to resist it.


How Men and Women Use Influence in the Workplace

A leader’s success often depends on his or her ability to gain the cooperation and support of
others. A recent questionnaire of 223 leaders (116 men, 107 women) found the following:


Of the four most effective influencing tactics—reasoning, inspiring, consulting and
collaborating—men and women use reasoning and collaborating to the same extent. There are,
however, some significant differences regarding the two other core tactics—inspiring and
consulting. Women tend to use inspiring more frequently than men, especially with colleagues
and direct reports. Women also use consulting more frequently than men with bosses and with
their direct reports.
Here are some other important findings from the research:

● Women use apprising significantly more with direct reports. Men use apprising when
influencing their bosses.

● Men could benefit from using consulting more often with their direct reports,
especially when they have authority to make a change but need others to help them
implement it. However, women may be using this influencing style too often with their

● Women use recognizing (using praise or flattery) significantly more than men when
influencing their colleagues and direct reports.

● Women use legitimizing (significantly more than men when influencing colleagues.


Both men and women use collaborating and consulting to the same extent with colleagues.
Additionally, men and women use pressure to the same degree. Leaders can use the following
tips to maximize their influence:

● Don’t consider gender. The gender of the influencer and person being influenced has
no effect on whether influencing attempts are successful. To be successful, the
influencer must know the person he or she is trying to influence.

● Don’t rely on reasoning. Reasoning works best when used with other influencing
tactics. If you’re going to use reasoning, be sure to talk about the benefits of what
you’re pitching, not just the facts.

● Build a solid the foundation. The trust and relationship you have with the person
you’re influencing play a vital role in how successful you are. However, many
influencers fail to take time to build trust within teams. Having this relationship in
place ahead of time helps you build credibility with the person so you don’t have to
rely on a single influencing tactic.

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If a subordinate is determined to resist an administrator’s authority, the only effective type of
power may be coercive power, defined as “the capacity to force people to do something against
their will.” It needs to be emphasized, however, that most school administrators are quite limited
in their possession of coercive power. By and large, this kind of power is based on the backing of
an administrator’s superiors; it may also need to be validated by some outside agency—for
example, the courts—if the legality of the use of power is challenged. To complicate matters, the
basis for the use of coercive power is frequently vague and often not predictable or dependable.
For instance, seldom will an administrator find in school board policies or in a job description
any discussion of the right to use coercive means to gain compliance from employees. This type
of power is rarely made explicit and is usually, at most, implied.

On the other hand, an administrator may be able to achieve initial compliance from others or
overcome resistance to the exercise of authority as a result of other people’s perception of the
administrator’s coercive power. Three perceptual conditions, however, must be present:
Others must perceive the administrator as possessing a certain kind of coercive power.
They must perceive this power as something that they definitely would like to avoid.
They must perceive the administrator as ready to use coercive power if compliance is not

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If, for example, a teacher believed that a principal could and would use punishment in some way
for the teacher’s failure to monitor the corridor when students are passing between classes, and if
the teacher wanted to avoid that punishment, then the teacher would probably comply with the
administrator’s expectations. In this case, the perception is more important than the reality. If a
subordinate perceives that an administrator possesses coercive power, then the subordinate will
act on that perception, irrespective of whether the administrator possesses that power. As
Wheeless and his colleagues point out, “People act not on the basis of the situation but on the
basis of their perceptions about the situation. … It makes no difference, for example, if the agent
[administrator] making a threat has the ability to carry out that threat. If the [individual or group]
being threatened perceive[s] such an ability, the agent has power.”


Power and Privilege

Take a look at the video “Power, Privilege, and Oppression” and then consider how a school
leader wields his/her power.
Watch the following video, “Power, Privilege, and Oppression”

Nevertheless, it is important for an administrator to understand that coercive power is most
effective when it is not used, but when it is believed that it would be exercised and supported if
compliance were not forthcoming. The more an administrator has to resort to the use of coercive
power in order to gain compliance, the greater the possibility of exposing its limited or
inadequate basis, thereby exacerbating a situation, or resulting in some other unanticipated
consequence. Although certain circumstances may warrant the use of coercive power, in most
situations the administrator should utilize other means, such as dependence upon personal power,
for gaining compliance and, especially, cooperation.

The appropriate exercise of personal power is one of the means of obtaining higher levels of
teacher satisfaction and cooperation. Empowerment through the use of personal power gives
teachers a sense of ownership, raises their level of self-esteem, and increases participatory
decision making and communication. Ross and Webb determined in their study of an elementary
school how shared decision making taught administrators and faculty members how to share
power and thus provide a better learning environment for their students. Other means that
administrators can use for gaining cooperation fall under the category of influence, to be
discussed next.

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Most of the kinds of power identified above would seem to represent types of influence rather
than power. Power, of course, can be and has been defined broadly by a number of theorists.
Kotter aptly notes that inherent in every position in an organization is a certain degree of power,
and individuals have the potential either to enhance or to decrease the power of their position by
the behavior they display. When power is defined broadly, such a definition (and sometimes the
mere use of the term) can inadvertently mislead an administrator into thinking there is more
capacity to bring about change than the administrator possesses in certain situations.
Unquestionably, power and influence are closely related on a theoretical basis; however, little
research exists about the effects of a leader’s influence-seeking behaviors on subordinate
perceptions of leader effectiveness in an organizational context. Specific descriptive theory and
valid empirical research on possible linkages between perceived leader behavior and attributions
of power have been virtually nonexistent. One exception in recent years is the research of Rice
and her colleagues, in which the power and leadership practices of school superintendents were
studied according to the perceptions of both leaders (principals) and followers (teacher
association representatives).


Influence, when compared to power, seems to be a more positive concept and more in line with
the realities of organizational life for most school administrators. Influence can be defined as
“the ability of an [administrator] without recourse to force or legitimation, to affect another’s
behavior.” Influence is the shaping of decisions through “informal and nonauthoritative means.”
It differs from authority in that (1) many people can influence a decision whereas only one
person has final authority, (2) influence may be distributed unequally, whereas authority is
usually distributed equally, and (3) authority is top-down management, whereas influence is
multidirectional.61 An example of multidirectional influence is described by Bredesen, who was
able to use his influence to involve upper elementary and middle school students in a community

service project that would have been reserved for high school students. As the principal of a
school and a member of the board of directors for a historical society, he was in an ideal position
to convince the school board that the habit of community service needed to be established in
students before the pressures of their high school years. Working with teachers and the local
museum personnel, he was able to implement a successful summer service program for students
that reinforced the classroom instruction of local history.

An administrator has influence if other individuals or groups can be persuaded to comply with
the administrator’s expectations, despite their ambivalence or objections. In light of the
limitations of power and considering the periodic challenges to authority that most administrators
will experience during their careers, it would appear that the concept of influence offers a
positive and constructive alternative basis for many administrative actions.

If the administrator is to exert influence successfully, the administrator’s actions must be based
on some factor that will persuade people to act in accordance with the administrator’s decisions
or directives. Successful implementation of directives will, in large measure, be contingent upon
the perception of the individual receiving the directive from the administrator.

Furthermore, utilizing (with minor modification) French and Raven’s concepts, it would appear
that administrators may be able to exert influence based on other people’s identification with
them (referent influence), their ability to obtain rewards (reward influence), or their perception of
administrators’ expertise as educational leaders (expert influence).

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Referent Influence

The identification of other individuals or groups with the administrator as a person is the basis
for the referent influence of an administrator. An administrator who possesses certain qualities,
such as an attractive personality, a strong character, or a charismatic leadership style, may be
successful in securing the cooperation of other people as a result of their identification with these
characteristics. Even if teachers, parents, or students question the decisions or policies set forth
by an administrator, they may oblige, simply because they react positively to the personal
qualities the administrator possesses.

There is considerable observational evidence that people will respond favorably to an
administrator’s attempt to influence them as a result of their identification with the individual.
Administrators in business and government, as well as in education, have found it possible to
secure the cooperation of others, in spite of objections to a particular policy or action, because of
their positive feelings about the administrator. There is little doubt that the identification by

others with the administrator can be a powerful basis for influencing them if the administrator
possesses the requisite personal characteristics.

One problem with referent influence is that research has not conclusively established the kinds of
personal characteristics with which people identify positively. It appears that not all people
respond the same way to particular personal characteristics. Qualities that one group may find
attractive or charismatic might be perceived by other individuals or groups as undesirable. For
example, ingratiation, acting friendly toward another, or flattering another may be enjoyed by
some employees but be seen as a sign of weakness by others. Consequently, there is no single
pattern of personal attributes that can be recommended without qualification to the administrator
for all situations. A study by Hoy and Kupersmith suggests, however, that administrator
“authenticity” could be very important. In addition, a study by Johnston and Venable suggests
that an administrator’s style in administering personnel rules may be significantly related to the
degree of loyalty that teachers feel toward the administrator.

Another important limitation of referent influence is the fact that its potential is largely
determined by factors over which most administrators have little or no control. By the time a
person becomes an administrator, personality and leadership style are usually already developed.
Therefore, if the administrator does not currently possess the kinds of personal characteristics
with which people identify, the likelihood of developing them is not great. Although an
administrator can often improve personal traits, the task is not an easy one, and change is
frequently slow. Despite these obstacles, it would be in the best interest of any administrator to
improve personal qualities and leadership style so that greater referent influence can be exercised
(see Chapter 1, “Leadership”).

Reward Influence

A second kind of influence an administrator may be able to utilize in persuading people to adhere
to the administrator’s wishes is reward influence. This type of influence is based on the
administrator’s actual or perceived possession of certain rewards that can be distributed to those
who comply. Examples of these rewards range from a better work schedule to greater
administrative receptivity and accommodation to the recommendations and special needs of
certain individuals or groups.

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Reward Distribution Issues

Unfortunately, it would appear that most administrators do not possess a great deal of influence
based on rewards, since they frequently find themselves in a position where they cannot

distribute to one individual or group any rewards that do not need to be distributed equally to
other individuals or groups. Unlike executives in private enterprise, educational administrators
can seldom selectively reward their employees according to merit or increased productivity.
They may occasionally be able to offer a reward to one individual or group without having to
give similar recognition to other involved individuals or groups, but this possibility does not
occur often. In education, preferential treatment seems to be regarded with suspicion, and
students, teachers, and parents are alert to situations in which the administrator seems to be
favoring one individual or group over another.

Limited Resources

There is also a problem that only a limited number of rewards are available to most
administrators to utilize in influencing other people. School board policy, bureaucratic
regulations, the nature of public control over resources, and teacher, student, and parent
militancy are factors that tend to restrict the number and importance of rewards available to an

Alternative Rewards

This does not mean that the administrator possesses no reward influence or that it should not be
utilized. There are some administrators who, over the years, have been able to develop a wide
variety of rewards. For example, in discussing the behavior of one principal who attempted to
use reward influence, Cusick pointed out that “because he administered the schedule, additional
assignments, and unallocated resources, he controlled just those things that many teachers
wanted in order to fill out their fields. The principal could award a department chairperson with a
free period, a favorite class, a double lunch period, an honors section, or support for a new
activity.” Another practical alternative reward is “modeling.” Blase and Kirby found that
teachers reported that modeling influences their behavior to be consistent with the principal’s
expectations. One teacher stated “many of the principals’ requests might be viewed as beyond
the call of duty, but because of the principal’s modeling, they seem to be a part of the job.” These
teachers reported that this type of influence made them feel “comfortable,” “proud,” “aware,”
and “positive.” Given this, Henry Griffith, an elementary school principal, demonstrates how a
leader’s power and influence can be used to enhance school improvement. Under his guidance,
the faculty wrote and received a grant for $25,000 a year for five years. The faculty was able to
use the grant-writing experience to gain ownership of the ideas Griffith wanted to incorporate,
while enjoying not only the benefits of the money but also an enhanced self-respect and
collegiality among themselves.

Positive Reinforcement as a Reward

In addition to control over resources, a school administrator has available a simple but frequently
overlooked source of rewards: positive reinforcement. This can, for example, take the form of
oral and/or written appreciation to a person who volunteers for an activity, praise for a job well
done, a commendation for a significant effort to improve, or some other type of reward.
Although most school administrators may believe that they are already utilizing this potential
source of influence sufficiently, there is evidence to the contrary.

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To be effective in influencing behavior, positive reinforcement must be directly linked to the
specific effort or performance that warrants the reinforcement. For example, the school
administrator who gives praise indiscriminately or who does not clearly relate the delivery of
praise to the production of a certain type of behavior is not likely to be successful in influencing
others with positive reinforcement. In addition, unless the kind of positive reinforcement used by
a school administrator is valued by its recipient, the latter’s behavior is unlikely to be influenced.
Consequently, to be effective in using positive reinforcement, the school administrator needs to
become knowledgeable about the reward predisposition of the people to be influenced. Fuqua
and colleagues refer to the importance of “rewarding people for their accomplishments,
contributions, and ideas,” inviting people to participate in decision making, and giving credit
where credit is due. Leaders who empower, according to these authors, are leaders who “reward
people who generate the greatest impact toward organizational goals, rewarding results rather
than processes.”

Hierarchical Influence as a Reward

An administrator perceived as someone who has influence with superiors may also be able to
exert reward influence with teachers. Such influence can be manifested in at least two important
ways: by securing additional resources from the district that subordinates need and by being an
effective advocate and supporter of subordinates in their interactions with the district office. This
type of hierarchical influence has received some research support and represents a frequently
overlooked source of rewards that an administrator may be able to generate for subordinates. For
two interesting studies of the techniques that people use to try to exert upward influence, see
Schmidt and Kipnis and Schilit and Locke.

Although it is important for an administrator to make maximal use of whatever resources or
reward influence exists, it should be understood that, in many situations, the administrator’s
reward influence is not extensive, and there are significant constraints that may make it difficult
to take advantage of this type of influence. Therefore, although an administrator should try to
develop and use as many sources of rewards as possible, inasmuch as there are limitations to

administrative influence based on rewards, other sources of influence will be needed as well.
Glinow has written a provocative article on reward strategies that speaks to this issue.

Expertise as a Basis of Influence

Although the foregoing discussion of referent and reward influence has emphasized the personal
and situational limitations of these bases for administrative action, there is one source of
administrative influence that potentially would seem to offer the administrator a truly viable
basis upon which to gain the cooperation of others. That source is expertise, that is, specialized
knowledge or skill.

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Empirical support for the primacy of this source of administrative influence was furnished in a
study by Horstein. He discovered, in an investigation of 325 teachers who worked in 14 different
schools in two school districts, that the most important factor associated with teacher satisfaction
and high evaluation of principal leadership was the principal’s tendency to base attempts to
influence teachers on possession of expertise, rather than on other sources of influence.
Administrative attempts to influence teachers based on the possession of certain rewards for
compliance were not associated with high teacher satisfaction or high evaluation of the
administrator’s leadership. Referent identification as a source of influence was positively related
to teacher satisfaction, but the relationship was not statistically significant. Horstein’s research
also revealed that in those situations where the administrator based behavior on legitimate
authority or coercive power, the faculty was not satisfied with this individual as a principal and
did not give the principal a good evaluation as a leader.

While the data from Horstein’s investigation seem to suggest that an administrator can
successfully influence teachers if the actions are based on expertise as a source of influence,
there is other evidence that, regrettably, many administrators seem to lack expertise or are
perceived by others as lacking expertise. The ability of administrators to manage a school or
school district effectively and humanely has come under attack periodically through the years,
and these criticisms have recently escalated with the emphasis on school accountability and on
student, teacher, and parent demands for involvement in school decision making. For a further
discussion on this problem, see Gorton and Thierbach-Schneider.

On the other hand, research on effective schools has demonstrated that principals with expertise
can exert influence in their schools and that their leadership contributions are important to the
success of these schools.81 In the area of instructional supervision, for example, Guditus and
Zirkel found that “the influence of principals depends to a considerable degree on their
possession of special knowledge and skills which enable them to help teachers achieve their

goals.”82 For example, principals could increase their influence on teachers by learning more
about teaching and by visiting classrooms. “Managing by walking around may give
administrators an opportunity to influence faculty and staff.”

The effectiveness of an administrator’s influence would also seem to depend on the extent to
which attempts to influence others fall within the teachers’ zone of acceptance. See Clear and
Seager, Kunz and Hoy, and Johnston and Mullins for further discussion of the relationship
between the zone of acceptance and administrator influence.

Therefore, it would appear that one of the keys for an administrator’s successful exercise of
influence is to assist teachers and relevant others to meet their goals and to help them relate those
goals to the overall goals of the school and school district. This may require an administrator to
develop greater expertise in instructional leadership, program development, student discipline,
conflict resolution, working with groups, or some other type of special knowledge or skill that is
needed. In many cases, an administrator may need to identify and deploy other people who
possess special knowledge and skill that the administrator does not possess and would find
difficult to develop. The important consideration is not who possesses the special knowledge or
skill but that it be utilized to help the people associated with the school to become more

By empowering teachers, the potential for effecting desired results can be enhanced. Futrell
believes that if teachers were empowered to design and create their own professional
development, it would improve their performance. For an administrator, improved student, staff,
and school performance is the goal, and empowering teachers is a means to that goal.

In Yukl’s view of influence, he noted it as the effect, either intended or unintended, of one party
(the agent) on another person’s (the target’s) attitudes, perceptions, behavior, or some
combination of these outcomes. He suggests that 11 proactive tactics (Table 3.2) can be used for
influence attempts with subordinates, peers, and superiors.

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Table 3.2


By the very nature of their positions in an organization, administrators will be assigned major
responsibilities. In order to carry out those responsibilities successfully, authority, influence, and
perhaps, in some cases, power must be exercised effectively. Appropriate understanding and use
of the concepts presented in this chapter should help the administrator achieve these objectives.

Although most of the case studies, suggested learning activities, and simulations presented in
Part II require the appropriate use of the ideas in this chapter on authority, power, and
influence, the following exercises should provide the best opportunities for testing
understanding and effective use of authority, power, and influence concepts: Cases 20, 27, 28,
30, 37, 38, 49, and 62, and the midyear and end-of-the-year in-basket exercises.

Chapter 6: Organizational Culture


▪ Standard 1:
Mission, Vision, and Core Values
Effective educational leaders develop, advocate, and enact a shared mission, vision, and core
values of high-quality education and academic success and well-being of each student.
▪ Standard 3:
Equity and Cultural Responsiveness
Effective educational leaders strive for equity of educational opportunity and culturally
responsive practices to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.
▪ Standard 7:
Professional Community for Teachers and Staff
Effective educational leaders foster a professional community of teachers and other professional
staff to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.
▪ Standard 9:
Operations and Management
Effective educational leaders manage school operations and resources to promote each student’s
academic success and well-being.

Scholars have long been interested in the social factors that seem to influence individual or group
behavior in an organization.1 A classic example of this focus was the Western Electric studies in
the 1930s that found employees develop a set of implicit group norms that influence, and in
some cases restrict, the levels of performance for an individual in a group.2 Another example is
provided in Anderson and Poe’s more recent description of the entrepreneurial society created in
certain companies in which employees work together with nothing less than a zeal to perform.3
Since the 1930s, there have been several studies of the types of social and professional norms
that develop in a school,4 and research on effective schools has identified the culture of a school
as an important effectiveness variable.5 The Education Commission of the States has found that
quality learning experiences start with an organizational culture that values high expectations and
respects diversity of talents and learning styles.6 Therefore, if school leaders desire to improve
the morale and productivity of those they lead, it is imperative that they strive to understand and
enhance the organizational culture of their school or school district.
In the following sections the theory of organizational culture will be examined, especially as it
relates to effective schools.

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What is the organizational culture of a school, and how would an administrator recognize it? Any
organization operates according to a set of values, goals, principles, procedures, and practices
that help define what it is all about. Another word for these combined operating characteristics is
“culture.” According to Smircich, who synthesized a number of ideas from other theorists,
“Culture is usually defined as social or normative glue that holds an organization together. It
expresses the values or social ideas and beliefs that organization members come to share.”
Brighton and Sayeed describe culture as “the social energy that drives (or fails to drive)
organizations” and that enables organizations “to survive the external environment and manage
the internal environment.” For Peterson and Deal, “Culture is the underground stream of norms,
values, beliefs, traditions, and rituals that has built up over time as people work together, solve
problems, and confront challenges.” They emphasize that “this set of informal expectations and
values shapes how people think, feel, and act in schools” and serves as a “highly enduring web
of influence [that] binds the school together and makes it special.” Cunningham writes that
effective school cultures are characterized by people “who have learned to trust and to share as
well as to accept other’s needs to trust and share.”

Halpin’s research has shown that schools differ in their cultures and that those cultures have an
impact on students. To illustrate, he writes:

In one school the teachers and the principal are zestful and exude confidence in
what they are doing. They find pleasure in working with each other; this pleasure
is transmitted to students. … In a second school the brooding discontentment of
teachers is palpable; the principal tries to hide his incompetence and lack of
direction behind a cloak of authority. … And the psychological sickness of such a
faculty spills over on the students who, in their own frustration, feedback to
teachers a mood of despair. A third school is marked by neither joy nor despair,
but by hollow ritual. … In a strange way the show doesn’t seem “for real.”

Whether or not schools differ in their organizational cultures, conceptually every organizational
culture seems to be composed of several elements, depicted in Figure 6.1.12

Values and Ideals

As Figure 6.1 indicates, an administrator’s analysis of a school’s organizational culture should
begin with developing a good understanding of the values and ideals that the school
represents.13 The basic question to be asked is, “What kinds of behavior are valued in this
school, and what does the school aspire to become?” (It will be important for an administrator to
distinguish between those values and ideals given only lip service by the people who are
associated with the school and those on which their behavior is based.)

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The values and ideals of a school may be difficult to ascertain, but they usually will be reflected
in its norms. Norms, according to Josefowitz, are “the unwritten rules stating what people should
and should not do.” They serve the purpose of regulating and controlling behavior. An example
of a desirable faculty norm would be, “Teachers should share ideas about how to improve

Norms, it should be emphasized, are not values that an administrator can impose on a group. For
example, faculty and staff come to school with personal value systems. Organizational values are
then communicated to the individual through rules and processes. Shockley-Zalabak and
Morley’s research demonstrates that when organizational rules and personal values are
congruent, an individual is more satisfied with the job and projects high estimations of
organizational quality and success. Consequently, as Miller points out, “Any lasting change of a
school will occur only because the staff itself changes norms of expectations, appropriate role
definitions, standards of accountability, and patterns of behavior.”


The expectations of an organizational culture are the norms applied to a specific situation. For
example, “Bob Elliott, an experienced sixth-grade teacher, should be willing to share his
expertise with Julie Adams, a new sixth-grade teacher” is a specific expression of the faculty
norm presented previously. In another situation, “Dr. Brown, the principal, should support Mr.
Armstrong’s attempts to discipline a student” represents an expectation based on a faculty norm
that maintains, “The principal should always support the teachers, right or wrong.” Although it is
important for an administrator to become aware of the expectations of others as part of
understanding the culture of the school, an administrator must also evaluate the merits of those
expectations before deciding to meet them. For example, for a school to become more effective,
it may require that teachers expend effort and time beyond the normal workday, and

improvement may require a focus on teaching reasoning and analytical skills, with a reduced
emphasis on skills that are easier to teach.

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Expectations, if they are to be effective in shaping the behavior of the people associated with the
school, must carry sanctions. These sanctions represent the means by which an organization or
group tries to bring about compliance with its expectations. The sanctions may be negative or
positive, and they may be exercised formally or informally. They can range from a punitive
action to personal recognition and reward. The extent to which an organization or group
possesses significant sanctions will determine the degree to which it can maintain conformity of
behavior on the part of its members.

For example, an administrator may decide to instruct teachers to hold conferences before the end
of the grading period with any students who receive a D or an F. In this situation the
administrator is counting on the cooperation of the staff to carry out the directive. A majority of
the faculty may feel that holding these conferences will take too much time, however, so they
decide to ignore the administrator’s directive. Unless the administrator possesses adequate
monitoring procedures for detecting a lack of follow-through on the part of the faculty, the
principal may never discover that the policy on teacher–student conferences is not being carried
out. If the failure to comply with the instruction is discovered, the principal may not be able to do
anything about it unless the administrator can persuade the teachers of the desirability of these
conferences or possesses adequate sanctions to force them to adhere to the directive, despite their
lack of voluntary cooperation.

The noncompliance of an individual or group ordinarily does not take the form of a direct
challenge to the administrator. Instead, resistance is usually expressed by underachievement or
lack of implementation in response to the administrator’s expectations. As U.S. President Harry
Truman observed in recalling the problems of the presidency, the executive may say, “Do this!
Do that!” and yet find, to his chagrin, that “nothing will happen.” Often the reason for the lack of
follow-through is that the subordinates in the hierarchy have concluded that the action desired by
the administrator is either not in their best interest or not in the best interest of the institution—so
they have ignored the instructions. As a result, the implementation of administrative policy is
completely delayed or thwarted.

Communication through Symbolism

The expectations and sanctions of a school or a group associated with a school may be
communicated directly, or they may be expressed indirectly through symbolic activity. As
Morgan and his colleagues note, “Many organizations consciously attempt to create complex
symbol systems which are intended to signify the desirability of engaging in rigorous patterns of
rational, instrumental, and pragmatic action. Symbols [reinforce] the pursuit of excellence,
achievement, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and intense commitment to organizational ends.”
An organization’s symbolic activity, according to Smircich, may take different forms, including
storytelling about important events, such as how an organization faced up to a particular
challenge; group rituals, such as the annual banquet at which awards of recognition are
presented; or organizational slogans, such as “excellence is our goal.”

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Symbolic Activity through Behavioral Example

Symbolic activity can also be found in the behavior of an administrator. For example, the
principal who would like to show support of a “reading break” program and encourage teachers
to support the program can certainly communicate these feelings and expectations at a faculty
meeting. If the administrator does so, and yet is never seen reading a book during the reading
break and does not use negative sanctions against teachers who fail to participate in the program,
this constitutes a stronger message to the faculty about the principal’s attitude than any
comments made at a faculty meeting. On the other hand, if the principal is regularly observed
reading a book in classrooms, this nonverbal behavior is likely to send a symbolic message to
teachers that will be more effective than anything that might be said at the meeting. The main
impact of symbolic activity is not so much what is said as what can be inferred from the behavior
of the people who are formal and informal leaders in an organization.


“Organizational culture and the symbols which are a part of this culture are not politically neutral
but represent levels of power and control,” write Reilly and DiAngelo.23 Blanch studied culture
as a control mechanism. Her research indicates that four core values define school culture: (1)
cooperative community–parent relationships, (2) cooperative teacher relationships, (3) student
needs, and (4) principals as cultural transmitters. Her research further demonstrates that strong
congruence of “group sensemaking” with school values indicates culture is a strong control
mechanism. She suggests that schools should attempt to foster consensus and that principals
should act as consensus builders in the early stages of culture development dominated by indirect
strategies. Direct strategies are diluted to minimize divisiveness, and “principal/teacher

sensemaking acts as a gauge of cultural controls,” according to the author. Her research implies
that strong cultural control impedes change, neglects instruction, and ultimately affects

A Positive Organizational Culture

Earlier studies tended to focus on the negative influence that the culture of an organization could
exert on the achievement and behavior of the individuals or groups associated with the
organization. Researchers have recently emphasized the importance of developing and
maintaining a positive organizational culture, however, if a school is to be effective. For
example, Purkey and Smith have concluded that “an academically effective school is
distinguished by its culture: a structure, process, and climate of values and norms that channel
staff and students in the direction of successful teaching and learning.”

But what kind of an organizational culture best promotes successful teaching and learning?
While scholars continue to pursue this question, research has produced some tentative findings
that suggest a number of major elements of the culture of an effective school, as shown in Figure
6.2. Snyder and Snyder indicate that changing organizational culture through a systems thinking
approach is based on “organizational planning, developing staff, developing a program, and
assessing school productivity.” With this model, schools will more easily effect change and
improve the instructional environment.

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Emphasis on Academic Effort and Achievement

An examination of Figure 6.2 shows that the organizational culture of an academically effective
school includes a set of schoolwide norms stressing academic effort and accomplishment.
Although other kinds of effort and achievement, such as developing ethical behavior, may also
be important to parents and students, the research on effective schools stresses that the norms of
an academically effective school will give the highest priority to academic effort and
achievement.28 These norms may be reflected in an organization’s mission statement,
educational goals, or other documents. Regardless of how the norms manifest themselves,
Saphier and King underscore the point that norms should represent “a clear, articulated vision of
what the school stands for, a vision that embodies core values and purposes.”

Since organizational norms are usually expressed in the form of expectations for the members of
the organizations, what are the expectations for those associated with effective schools? In
general, these expectations emphasize academic effort, improvement, and accomplishment. For
example, “striving for excellence” would be one important expectation in an effective school.
Saphier and King illustrate this emphasis by quoting a staff member, “In this school the teachers
and administrators are held accountable for high performance. . . . While we [teachers and
administrators] often feel under pressure to excel, we thrive on being part of a dynamic

Belief That All Students Can Achieve

A second important expectation for teachers in an effective school is adopting the attitude that all
students are capable of achieving, and therefore that teachers should behave accordingly. In a
study of effective inner-city elementary schools, Larkin found that “staff members verbally and
behaviorally expressed the belief that all of their students could achieve, regardless of
socioeconomic status or past academic performance.”

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Ongoing Faculty Development and Innovation

A third expectation characteristic of an effective school culture is that the faculty members
should strive to improve themselves, in part by helping each other and in part through
experimenting with different approaches. An example of this expectation, presented by Saphier
and King, is, “In this school the professional staff help each other. … Around here we are
encouraged by administrators and colleagues to experiment with new ideas and techniques
because that is how teachers and schools improve. . . . We are always looking for more effective
ways of teaching.”

A Safe and Orderly Learning Environment

A fourth major expectation associated with the culture of an effective school is that students and
teachers will behave in ways contributing to a safe and orderly school environment. As Purkey
and Smith point out, “Common sense alone suggests that students cannot learn in an
environment that is noisy, distracting, or unsafe.” Edmonds found that in effective schools, a safe
and orderly environment was established when “all teachers take responsibility for all students,
all the time, everywhere in the school.” Moreover, in a study of several hundred schools, Wayson
and Lasley discovered the following:

Schools with well-disciplined students have developed a sense of community,
marked by mutually agreed upon behavioral norms; these norms surround
students with examples of subtle rewards and sanctions that encourage students to
behave appropriately.

How an Effective School Culture Benefits Students

Yale’s Child Study Center, through its Comer School Development Program, found that students
improve in many areas, such as “self-efficacy, relationships with peers and adults, general mental
health, achievement on standardized tests, and classroom grades.” Squires and Kranyik attribute
this success to two reasons: The program supports change in the culture of the school and
focuses on the child’s total development—social, moral, physical, and psychological. The Comer
School program involves three teams—a parents’ program, the mental health team, and the
school planning and management team—all working to bring key stakeholders together to
coordinate school activities. All three teams are committed to the primary principles of no-fault
problem solving, consensus decision making, and collaboration.

Although there may be other expectations associated with the culture of an effective school, it
would appear that the ones described are the most important. Of course, these expectations will
need to be communicated and reinforced, activities that usually occur in an effective school as a
result of symbolic actions and sanctions.39 Such symbolic activity may, for example, take the
form of a school slogan on the importance of learning, a school policy that students who fail a
subject will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, or a procedure requiring all
students to make up their work, irrespective of the reason for their absence. In these examples a
certain symbolic message is being communicated: “Academics are important!”

Both positive and negative sanctions will also be necessary to encourage the achievement of
school expectations. Some administrators may be reluctant to use negative sanctions, such as
those discussed in Chapter 3, “Authority, Power, and Influence,” but individuals or groups whose
behavior conflicts with the ideals and values the administrator is trying to promote should not be

ignored. Of course, use of positive sanctions is preferable in encouraging adherence to
organizational expectations. Several researchers have found that schools recognizing student
accomplishment tend to have higher levels of achievement.40 In addition, the recognition and
support of teachers are also characteristic of the culture of an effective school. For example, in
another illustration presented by Saphier and King, it was observed, “Good teaching is honored
in this school and community,” and, “Despite financial constraints, we have sabbaticals, summer
curriculum workshops, and funds to attend professional conferences.”

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“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture,” asserts
Schein. The administrator’s role in regard to the organizational culture of a school is
multifaceted. First, the administrator needs to develop and maintain an adequate understanding
of the various elements of the school culture. Few new administrators are likely to assume they
know the organizational culture of the school, but many experienced administrators may falsely
assume that they already know their school culture because they have held a position in the
school for several years. An organization’s culture is not a static entity, however, but is
constantly changing and evolving. Figure 6.3 shows a number of major factors that can affect the
nature of the organizational culture existing in a school.

By analyzing the factors identified in Figure 6.3, an administrator can take an important step
toward better understanding how the present organizational culture has developed into what it is
today and how it may be changing. To help achieve this understanding, the administrator should
consider using one or more of the instruments that have been designed for assessing the
organizational culture of a school. Although most of these instruments have been developed for
the purpose of measuring the climate of a school (a broader concept), the data from such an
assessment would also be valuable in understanding the organizational culture. Instruments that

would be useful for this objective include the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire,
the Elementary School Environment Survey, the Quality of School Life Questionnaire, and the
Effective Schools Battery Survey. In addition, the National Association of Secondary School
Principals has developed the Comprehensive Assessment and School Improvement, a climate
instrument that appears to hold promise. These standardized instruments measure factors
common to schools and typically have a high degree of validity and reliability. These instruments
may not address the specific areas of interest of a particular administration, however. Rojewiski
and his colleagues outline steps that may be used to develop an individualized school-climate

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Enhancing School Culture

Once an administrator has attained a good understanding of the organizational culture of the
school, the administrator will then, and only then, be in a position to try to enhance that culture if
changes are needed. While most, if not all, administrators would probably like to develop an
organizational culture that is characteristic of effective schools, trying to change an
organizational culture, especially a school culture, will not be easy. Krajewski offers the
following principles for modeling creative teaching and leadership behaviors that enhance school
culture: (1) envision a future direction of collaboration, (2) clearly establish the connection
between mission and practice by being an enthusiastic facilitator, meeting the needs of teachers
and students, understanding the motivations of each employee, and promoting growth in all
school personnel, (3) view problems as opportunities and focus on solutions, (4) be creative in
stimulating good teaching practices, (5) think of others, (6) foster staff development, (7) create
networks that decrease teacher isolation and promote professional sharing, and (8) stay focused
on the most important outcome, student performance.

One problem is that schools, particularly secondary schools, are often referred to as “loosely
coupled” organizations; that is, the authority and other bureaucratic linkages between the
principal and the staff are often indirect. For example, an administrator may want teachers to
emphasize more time on tasks in their classrooms and may, in fact, direct them to do so. But
once the classroom doors are closed, a school administrator frequently has no adequate
mechanism to enforce these wishes.

Subcultures and Countercultures

Moreover, although the discussion in this chapter, for the purpose of simplification, has referred
to the organizational culture of a school as though it were a homogeneous entity, it is, in reality,
more complicated than that. As Smircich has observed, “Much of the literature refers to an
organizational culture, appearing to lose sight of the great likelihood as there are multiple

organization subcultures, or even countercultures, competing to define the nature of situations
within organizational boundaries.” This type of condition is particularly characteristic of
secondary schools with their different departments, orientations, and needs. It is conceivable that
in a secondary school, each of the departments may have its own subculture, and, more
important, many of the subcultures may not be compatible—and may be in conflict—with what
the administrator would like to see as the overall organizational culture. Considering that
students may also have their own subculture (or several of them), which may be in conflict with
the other subcultures of the school, then the complexity and the difficulty of trying to change the
organizational culture of the school become apparent. As Conway points out, “We are asking
schools to restructure themselves and their culture, to go through an organizational learning of
the most difficult type.”

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Promoting Values and Respecting Diversity

Rothstein states that issues involving class, culture, and race have influenced students for
centuries and are gaining in importance with the increasing diversity of today’s society.
Darling-Hammond cautions that more than ever before, the ability of America to survive as a
democracy is dependent on public education preparing citizens to think independently and forge
out common ground among many diverse experiences and ideas. Dietrich and Bailey note that
facilitating students in discussion and expression of their points of view, as well as working in
cooperative groups, is important to their social development and enforces a sense of community
by fostering a cohesive environment in which to learn. Boyer believes that schools have the
obligation not only to guide students into becoming literate and well informed but also to “help
them develop the capacity to live responsibly and to judge wisely in matters of life and conduct.”
He sees the crucial problem as deciding which values should be taught within the diversity of
today’s society. He concludes that the following core of virtues might be agreed upon: honesty,
respect, responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, perseverance, and giving.

“A school’s greatest impact occurs not in the formal lessons taught, but in creating a climate in
which virtues are learned by example,” according to Boyer. For example, the character education
program in Boston is centered around books that have been chosen for their treatment of specific
character traits and values. In grades K–5 the values emphasized are trust, self-love, self-esteem,
compassion, self-awareness, and justice. The skills taught are expressing one’s point of view,
expressing and managing feelings, and resolving conflicts. In grade 6, the values emphasized are
sharing, hope, and courage, and the skills taught are expressing someone else’s point of view,
empathy, and compromise.

Kohn, on the other hand, voices concern about current character education programs and
advocates that teachers facilitate student thinking about the way the students want themselves
and others to be: “Students and teachers should decide together what they want their
communities to be like, so students will understand values ‘from the inside out.’” The topic of
character development in schools is a controversial issue that future administrators will need to

Challenges in Shaping School Culture

In spite of these complexities and difficulties, an administrator may be able, to a limited extent,
to shape the organizational culture of the school or school district. Principals should remember,
however, that combining “professional management with inspirational leadership and a
collectivist culture” may lead to role conflicts and confusion. Based on an analysis of the social
science and educational literature on organizational cultures, the following suggestions are

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Clarity about Values and Ideals

First, an administrator needs to be clear about which values and ideals the school should be
promoting. An administrator who has no notion of what an ideal school would look like will not
be able to create policies for moving in a positive direction.65 Research by Hallinger indicates,
“Principals can influence student learning by developing a clear mission that provides an
instructional focus for teachers throughout the school.”66 Unfortunately, many administrators
become bogged down in the everyday duties of managing a school and have not thought through
what it is that their school should aspire toward. A basic question that needs to be answered is,
“What should be the primary mission and goals of this school?”67 Obviously, the administrator
should not be the only one who attempts to answer this question; teachers, students, and parents,
among others, also need to be involved in order to gain deeper insights and commitment. The
principal appears to play the major role, however, beyond that of parent, in developing a school
climate of high expectations.68 If an administrator is not clear about what the school should
stand for and should be aspiring toward, the administrator will be in a poor position to shape the
organizational culture in a different direction. As Firestone and Wilson have emphasized, “The
principal’s task and challenge is to develop a clear vision of the purposes of the school that give
primacy to instruction and to carry it through consistently during those countless interactions
with [important others].”

Shaping the Culture through Choice of Staff

Once an administrator has developed a clear vision of the “purpose” of the school, particular
attention must be paid to the kinds of individuals recommended as future members of the faculty
and to the people appointed to important leadership positions within the school. For example,
every time an administrator has an opportunity to replace a member of the faculty, the potential
exists for shaping the culture. Since the principal’s greatest influence may well be in the power
“to recruit, select, promote, and demote staff members,” it may take years of this process for a
principal to reshape the school’s culture. Hiring and retaining teachers who especially value
experimentation, for example, will certainly make innovation or change easier to facilitate for
principals. It is true that, in the instance of a single vacancy, there is little chance of hiring
someone whose values and ideals are exactly what the administrator wants the organizational
culture to reflect. The cumulative effect of selective hiring over a number of years, however,
could potentially change the culture of a school in important ways. In the final analysis, the
people associated with an organization are the major contributors to its culture. Their values and
ideals are the building blocks of the group norms that greatly influence individual and group
behavior. By emphasizing certain values and ideals in the hiring process, an administrator can
shape the culture of an organization over a period of time.

Shaping the Culture through Formal Leadership Appointments

An administrator will also have an opportunity to shape the culture of the organization when
making appointments of people to leadership positions within the organization. Periodically, an
administrator will need to appoint a chairperson of a committee or select someone for an
important position, for example, department head. In these situations, an administrator should
take care to select or appoint people who will best represent the organizational values and ideals
that the administrator is trying to promote. By selecting such individuals, the administrator will
not only obtain people who share a commitment to certain organizational priorities but, perhaps
more important, be communicating symbolically to others in the school those values and ideals
the administrator thinks are important for people to possess. The administrative act of selection
or appointment can potentially carry great symbolic influence, especially if the administrator
emphasizes publicly the reasons for these selections. According to Hallinger, however, these
appointments also lessen the opportunity for the administrator to personally communicate key
values and place greater reliance on instructional leaders to aid in fostering a positive school

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Working with the Informal Leaders

In addition to selecting with care those individuals who will occupy important leadership
positions in the school, an administrator who wishes to shape the organizational culture will need
to identify and develop an appropriate relationship with the informal leaders of the school. This
is particularly true for a new principal because the formal and informal leaders who are already
in place form a large portion of the school’s power structure. Developing a commitment from the
school leaders will be crucial to the achievement of the principal’s goals.

An informal leader generally operates in every group. The informal leader may be the same
person as the formal leader; however, whether or not that is true depends on the formal leader’s
personal influence with other members of the group rather than on any formal appointment by
the principal. An informal leader can best be identified by examining a group’s interaction
patterns: the individual with whom there is the greatest interaction and communication within the
group and whose opinion and judgment are most respected by the other members is the informal

Obviously, in most situations it would be best for an administrator if the informal leader and the
formal leader were the same person. That may not be the case, especially if an administrator has
not exercised good judgment in selecting the formal leaders within the organization, or if there
has been very limited opportunity to appoint new formal leaders, or if the informal leader’s
values are not consistent with those that the administrator would like to see adopted by the

Handling Conflict between Formal and Informal Leaders

When the informal leader of a group is a different person from the formal leader, a potential for
conflict may exist. For example, the administrator and a department chairperson may be trying to
promote a certain work ethic on the part of members of a particular department. If the informal
leader of that department is opposed to the new work ethic, then the other members of the
department may develop a group norm that will influence the members to resist the proposed
work ethic. This type of conflict can be detrimental to developing a cohesive organizational

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to resolving this type of conflict between formal and
informal leaders, although the concepts that are presented in Chapters 3 and 5 should be helpful.
The administrator could, of course, attempt to influence the informal leader by using persuasion
to convey the desirability of what the organization is trying to accomplish. In addition, the

administrator could attempt to develop a rival informal leader within the group who could
possibly lead the group in a direction that would be more compatible with the overall purposes of
the organization. The social science literature provides few clues as to how the administrator
might accomplish this, but it would appear that the key to a solution lies in identifying and
nurturing some individual in the group whose personal qualities are liked and respected by
colleagues but whose values and ideals are more congruent with the administrator’s. By
encouraging the administrator-approved informal leader to exert leadership within the group and
then rewarding such efforts, an administrator may be able to change the group norms of a
subculture to make them more consistent with the overall purposes of the organizational culture.

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Keeping the School’s Mission in the Public Eye

In attempting to shape the culture of an organization, it will be important for the administrator to
articulate at every opportunity those values and ideas being promoted. This needs to be done in
such documents as student and teacher handbooks and at meetings with faculty, students, and
parents. For example, Brookover and his colleagues suggest that in an effective school the
administrator and faculty should develop a statement of purpose and beliefs that would include
the following:

1. The purpose of the school is to educate all students to high levels of academic

2. To fulfill this purpose, the members of this school staff believe that
3. All students should have a challenging academic program.
4. All students should master their grade level objectives.
5. Teachers are obligated to prepare all students to perform at mastery level on the

objectives for the course.


Steps to Build a Culture of Diversity

1. Establish a structure. Dedicate time and resources for enacting change.
2. Build a better network. Encourage mentorships.
3. Have clear policies. Set clear guidelines about what is acceptable behavior and what is

4. Get buy-in. Communicate the benefits of diversity.
5. Be fair. If your organization is able to provide benefits, make sure it is beneficial to all.
6. Accommodate. Every group of people is not alike—make it equitable.
7. Welcome difference. Diversity is about listening and engaging in different

perspectives by establishing value.

8. Measure. Monitor diversity progress with internal surveys or internally set objectives
and milestones.

Source: N. Alcide, “8 Steps to Building a Culture of Diversity,” Business in Greater Gainesville (October 2017).
Accessed online,, July
12, 2021.

Whether a school administrator and faculty should adopt this particular statement of purpose and
beliefs, or some other, is not the issue. The important concept is that if the administrator is to
shape the organizational culture of the school, a clear statement of purpose and beliefs must be
formulated and communicated.

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Communication: A Tool for Shaping Culture

Formal communication will be essential, but an administrator needs to use informal and
symbolic communication as well to shape the future of the organization. Some researchers have
discovered that informal and symbolic communication, which takes the form of stories, rituals,
and slogans, can influence the culture of an organization. For example, the slogan, “Academic
excellence—no sweat, no gain,” communicates symbolically the value that a school places on
hard work. Anecdotes retold to new personnel about how students and teachers have invested
extra efforts to improve themselves and to help achieve certain organizational goals symbolically
emphasize the types of values and ideals that a school promotes. What a principal talks about,
pays attention to, and reinforces while walking around the building or conducting school
activities will greatly influence teachers’ behavior, and thus the organization’s culture, according
to Peterson.

In addition, rituals or ceremonies that an administrator initiates and supports provide an
opportunity to stress the values and ideals the administrator is trying to emphasize while
providing an occasion for rewarding behavior exemplifying these values and ideals. For
example, one high school that is attempting to promote academic excellence has established a
comprehensive program of rituals and rewards for students and teachers. Examples of this
program include the following:

1. Academic superstar recognition: Each week the school honors a student for outstanding
performance in a particular academic area by displaying on the office bulletin board a
picture of the student at work.

2. Homework recognition: The school honors students who have completed all their
homework assignments in all their classes with a grade of B or better, providing them
with special certificates and rewards—for example, tickets to a movie.

3. Average-raisers recognition: The school honors students who raise their grade point
averages from the previous term by 0.5 on a 4.0 scale by presenting them with special
certificates and rewards.

4. Teacher of the month recognition: One teacher is selected monthly by a PTA committee
to receive a special certificate and a night’s dinner and entertainment for the teacher and a

Although the total program of this school is much more comprehensive than is revealed in the
examples, the four illustrations are intended to give a sense of communicating symbolically the
values and ideals that are important to an organization. As Iannaccone and Jamgochian point out,
“When symbol and ceremony fit student perception that teachers care about their achievement
and the perception of teachers that administrators place improved student performance foremost
in their orientation in their jobs, then a strong and consistent school cultural consensus [will

“School leaders from every level are key to shaping school culture,” write Peterson and Deal,
summing up their point in the following description of the part leaders play:

Their words, their nonverbal messages, their actions, and their accomplishments
all shape culture. They are models, potters, poets, actors, and healers. They are
historians and anthropologists. They are visionaries and dreamers. Without the
attention of leaders, school cultures can become toxic and unproductive. By
paying fervent attention to the symbolic side of their schools, leaders can help
develop the foundation for change and success.

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When asked to distinguish between school culture and school climate, Christine Emmons,
coordinator of program evaluation at the Comer School Development Program, replied that
climate may be viewed as a “subset of culture.” Whereas school culture consists of “the belief
systems that undergird the patterns of activities that characterize the functioning of the school,”
school climate relates to human interactions. “School climate,” explained Emmons, “is the
quality and frequency of interactions between staff members in the school and students, among
the students, among the staff members themselves, and between staff at the school and parents
and the community.” Whether a school climate is positive or negative can be ascertained by the
atmosphere set up through such interactions.

Haynes, another author concerned about school climate, suggests that “school climate is the sum
total of, and dynamic interactions among, the psychosocial, academic, and physical dimensions
of the school’s environment.” The academic and psychosocial dimensions cannot be separated,
according to Haynes. “They must be addressed together consistently.”

Measuring School Climate

The question arises, “How can school climate be effectively measured?” Perceptions provide an
important gauge. “Perceptions held by stakeholder groups (e.g., students, parents, teachers) about
the physical, social, and learning environments of a school may influence both the processes and
outcomes that occur,” say researchers at Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Center.
Because of the impact of perceptions on processes and outcomes, it is important for educational
leaders to know what those perceptions are. One way of finding out is to conduct a survey asking
people not how they personally feel about a school, but their opinions about what “most people”
perceive to be true about the school in its various aspects. For this purpose the National
Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) School Climate Survey was developed.
The survey questionnaire is designed to find out what each stakeholder group perceives most
people to believe about 10 areas: teacher–student relationships, security and maintenance, the
effectiveness of the administration, student academic orientation, student behavioral values,
academic and career guidance and counseling services, student–peer relationships, relationships
between the school and parents/community, instructional management, and student activities.
The value of these data is summed up by the Western Michigan evaluators:

The shared perceptions of climate represent what most people believe, not the
individual’s personal reaction to the environment. These shared perceptions tend
to be persistent over time. Just as meteorological climate is largely unaffected by
daily shifts in temperature, the climate of the school is a relatively stable

They go on to point out that by comparing the perceptions of the various stakeholder groups,
school leaders can become aware of areas that need appropriate interventions to improve the
school’s environment.

One educator who has devoted much attention to school climate is H. Jerome
Freiberg. He points out many different ways that school climate can be raised,
such as student concerns surveys, entrance and exit interviews, and even “ambient
noise checklists” that pinpoint areas where excessive noise levels cause stress and
distraction and where changes need to be made. “School climate can be a positive
influence on the health of the learning environment or a significant barrier to
learning,” writes Freiberg.

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Why Climate Is Important

In the physical world, climate can determine whether plants thrive or fail to grow. The climate of
a school can similarly have a major influence on morale, learning, and productivity. A
welcoming, safe, and supportive environment can help students believe in their potential and
provide motivation for success—particularly if they feel they are respected in all their diversity,
including differing types of talents and learning styles. Establishing such a climate also requires
dealing with school safety issues, as discussed in Chapter 5, including protecting students from
intimidating tactics such as bullying and harassment. Banks has written that many students
frequently stay home because of bullying. “Victims often fear school and consider school to be
an unsafe and unhappy place.” Such an assessment of the school environment is completely
opposite the positive climate that fosters academic achievement and social development.


An organizational culture is a complex entity, one that is constantly evolving. Unless there is a
positive organizational climate and culture, it is unlikely that the necessary technical
improvements that benefit students in teaching and curriculum will be implemented.90 For
example, the rapidly increasing cultural diversity of students in the schools can create serious
misunderstandings among students, teachers, parents, and administrators and further diminish or
erode a positive climate. Principals and staff must be able to recognize and resolve culturally
based school and community problems.91 A guide from the U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights and the Bias Crimes Task Force of the National Association of Attorneys
General urges educational leaders to examine the school environment regularly for any evidence
of harassment:

Regular, focused observation of school activities and environments, especially
less structured settings like school hallways and school buses, will identify
harassment that staff may neglect to report. It is possible that, in some instances,
harassment may be so widespread that no one actually reports it. Periodically
examine the school site and furniture for racially and sexually derogatory graffiti.
Monitor possible trouble spots in the school for incidents of hostility and
harassment. For example, ensure that students of racial and national origin
minority groups and both sexes who drop out of courses and activities in which
they are under-represented have not been subjected to harassment.

Sellers and Hall have explored the role that school counselors can have in assisting
administrators and teachers “in creating a school culture that empowers all individuals to succeed
and reach their fullest potential.” Counselors can help (1) provide training in multicultural
competencies, (2) encourage sensitivity to individual differences and understanding of oneself
and others, and (3) provide knowledge and skills necessary to work with special populations.
These authors go on to say that school counselors can “respond proactively to pre-judicial
attitudes and values that influence assessment and treatment with multicultural students.”

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An administrator should not be intimidated by the challenges of creating an effective school
culture and climate. Instead, the focus should be on maintaining an accurate understanding of the
school’s culture and direction and on those factors influencing its development. Educators are
advised to place less attention on reform initiatives and more on creating a clear vision and
mission to provide direction for the school. The administrator can then try, with the assistance of
others, to shape the culture toward desirable ends.94 Fullan recognizes that the keys to effective
change involve reshaping the school culture and also providing time for teachers to develop
professionally.95 In the process of pursuing positive results, the administrator will be involved in
school change, the subject of the next chapter.

Although many of the case studies, suggested learning activities, and simulations presented in
Part II of the text require the appropriate use of the ideas in this chapter on organizational
culture, the following exercises should provide the best opportunities for testing understanding
and effective use of the concepts about organizational culture: Cases 22, 26, 29, 45, 52, 56, 57,
and 65; and the midyear and end-of-the-year in-basket exercises.


This was his first job as a principal. He had been a teacher for several years and had obtained his

master’s degree in educational administration the preceding summer. Last spring he had looked

around for a position in administration, but nothing seemed to be available for someone with no

previous administrative experience.

During the summer he had gradually accepted the idea of another year of teaching, but in

mid-August he had received a call from the superintendent of a small school district that was

looking for a building principal. The former principal had just resigned to take a job in a larger

school system, and since classes were scheduled to begin in two weeks, the superintendent was

anxious to hire someone to fill the vacancy. Within a few days, after several telephone

conversations and a personal interview, the superintendent had offered him the job.

Although the offer had been rather flattering, he had experienced mixed emotions about

accepting it. It had bothered him a little to think about requesting a release from his own school

district so late in the year, although he had been fairly sure that there would be no problem in

obtaining it. He had also had reservations about working in such a small school system and

community. Still, he had realized that a person had to start somewhere, and this job would at

least provide him with experience. So with that thought in mind, he had accepted the position.

His decision had precipitated the need for numerous other decisions within the next week

and a half. Such matters as putting his home up for sale and locating suitable housing for his

family in the new community had to be taken care of, and before he knew it, the time that he had

hoped to spend learning about the educational program of the district and planning for the

opening of school had almost dwindled away.

Now, with only two days left before the faculty was to return for its annual fall workshop,

the principal began to panic a little. He still hadn’t come to a decision about which items should

be covered during the two-day teacher workshop, and he was beginning to become concerned

about how the teachers would react to him as their new principal. Several of them had stopped by

the previous day, but it was difficult to tell how they felt about him. He suspected that he was

younger than many of the faculty members, and he had misgivings about how the older and more

experienced teachers might perceive him. He had also started to experience some uncertainty

about how well the students and their parents were going to accept him. Although he had always

gotten along all right with both groups while he was a teacher, he wasn’t sure that they would

respond to him the same way now that he was a principal.

He wondered whether he was ready for all the responsibilities that a principal had to

handle. He recalled that in the past he had never been especially awed by the principal’s duties,

but, from this new perspective, things seemed to look a lot different.

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