Schools across America are returning to the classroom in varying degrees. Some schools still offer a hybrid for students who chose to learn online, while some are moving to return fully to the classroom. In either case, one thing is certain, teacher shortages are real. The rise in demand and lack of enrollment in teacher preparation programs signals tough times ahead. Especially for in-demand areas like Special Education and English Learner Education. One immediate thing educational leaders can do to impact this distressing dynamic is to focus on a leadership framework that supports their teachers’ wellbeing. 

According to the Learning Policy Institute, teachers are twice as likely to leave if they feel their administrator is unsupportive. Harter and Clifton identified in It’s the Manager, 70% of the variance in team engagement is attributed to the manager. Similarly, The Global Workplace Study of 2020, reports that people who trust their team leader are 14 times more likely to be engaged. These findings suggest that leaders who focus on Engagement can impact a worker’s decision to leave while supporting resilience and wellbeing.

Highly engaged and resilient teachers will be less likely to leave the teaching profession. But how do school administrators ensure they are leading with an eye on building engagement and promoting wellbeing? Our research at Meaning-Centered Leadership identified the following three things a leader can do to build engagement:

  1. Trust: Build trusting relationships, the participants in our research responded most strongly to the question that asked about their leader’s ability to establish trust among their team and throughout the organization. They also identified the character traits of trustworthiness and ethical behavior as essential. Trusting relationships are foundational to the creation of meaning. Taking time to create an environment where others can build trusting relationships is essential. These relationships become the glue for staying the course and the elixir for workplace stress. 
  2. Care and Concern: One of the first things a leader can do to build trust is to demonstrate care and concern. Caring about others and showing concern for them is vital to developing engagement and relationships with your colleagues. From the perspective of the followers in our research, demonstrating care and concern is an essential prerequisite for building relationships. The exemplary leaders we interviewed, regardless of their industry, all mentioned the importance of demonstrating they care. They stated the need to be visible and interact with everyone. And during these interactions, they need to treat everyone with dignity and respect. The exemplary leaders and their followers were clear: demonstrating care and concern is an essential element of their work experience. 
  3. Open Communication with Active Listening: Listening to others builds a trusting foundation for relationships to develop and leaders’ character to be expressed. Active listening does much more than just build an environment conducive to positive workplace relationships; it provides opportunities to have crucial conversations that can be pivotal to your leadership success. The idea is not to silence all conflict through harmonious active listening sessions. It is to build an environment of trust where conversations, even those that may present conflict can take place. As one exemplary CEO mentioned, leaders need to ensure that others feel their voices matter. 

Meaning-Centered Leadership, Skills and Strategies for Increased Employee Well-Being and Organizational Success, presents a framework that outlines steps leaders can take to Engage, Empower, and build the Expertise of their organizations and the people they lead. Get your copy today!