In the Gallup Report, The State of America’s Schools: The Path to Winning Again in Education, the authors describe the impact of emotional engagement, well-being via a positive strength based school environment, and hope for the future as keys to school success. Meaning-Centered Leadership offers a paradigm that presents opportunities to address all three of these crucial areas. The three E’s framework of Engagement, Empowerment, and Expertise describe how leaders can create meaning to maximize their effectiveness. 

The first E, Engagement, focuses on ways that leaders can develop strong relationships built on trust, care and concern, and informed by open communication and active listening. In this report, the researchers explain, “…students’ engagement levels are directly related to their academic performance.” Likewise, teachers engagement levels are just as important. Especially when you consider the researchers findings that a one percent increase in engagement leads to a six point increase in reading achievement and an eight point increase in math achievement.  

The second E, Empowerment, describes how leaders can create meaning through collaborative visioning, recognition and enthusiasm. The Gallup report stated, “A positive strength focused school environment can be a good source of emotional and physical well-being, even for the most disadvantaged students.” Leaders who focus on creating a collaborative environment can empower their followers to experience deeper meaning. When leaders recognise small wins they demonstrate they are paying attention, and the efforts of others matter. Schools require educators who are able to communicate enthusiasm each and every day in order to create a positive environment that will serve the needs of disadvantaged students. 

Our third E, Expertise, explains that leaders can create meaning through the use of experience grounded by principles, demonstrating a passion for the future and a desire to build their people, and expressing humility.  The Gallup report described a positive correlation between students having hope for the future and their emotional engagement in the learning process. Through a constant focus on building others and leading them towards a positive future, leaders can deepen meaning. 

The optimal well-being and improved performance associated with finding meaning in work is irrefutable and needed in all schools at all levels. Consider the words of education expert Michael Fullan, “New meaning must be evident at every level of the system, but if it is not done at the level of the student, for the vast majority of students, all is lost.” Fortunately, all is not lost, because meaning can have great impact, and we can all become meaning-centered leaders.