In a recent study published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, it was reported that almost all teachers report working in high stress conditions. A whopping 93% of teachers report that their stress levels fall into the high stress category. Furthermore, teachers report lower than average levels of job satisfaction and higher than average physical and mental health problems. This study also found that the high stress low coping teacher profile is associated with the worst student outcomes, including lower math performance, higher disruptive behaviors, and lowered adaptive behaviors. As an educational leader, you have a responsibility to care for the needs of your teachers just as you do for your students. In the recommendations of the above mentioned study, the authors suggested that school leaders need to create environments that foster nurturing, while ensuring they are providing adequate support. By creating a meaningful workplace, you can begin to provide the environment necessary to care for your teachers. Meaning has been shown to improve performance and lessen the impact of workplace stress. The following three elements from the first foundation of Meaning-Centered Leadership: Engagement, provide an excellent start.
- Trust: Covey and Merrill (2006) argued that the ability to extend, establish, and grow and restore trust is vitally important to interpersonal and personal well-being. Trust is a vital first step in creating a relational capacity within your leadership influence.
- Open Communication: In our extensive review of literature we found that open communication is essential to developing the resonant relationships necessary for a leader to create meaning among their followers.
- Active Listening: Servant Leadership is a term attributed most notable to Robert Greenleaf. Greenleaf explained that servant leaders elicit trust by listening first and empathizing. Our research into Meaning-Centered Leadership also found strong agreement that followers crave a leader who demonstrates active listening.
The first step in becoming a Meaning-Centered Leader begins with engagement. By establishing trust, creating open channels of communication, and being an active listener you can develop the workplace engagement that is necessary to foster the creation of meaning to help educators combat workplace stress.