Trust in Educational Leadership in Times of Crisis
The concept of trust at the central office level has been examined primarily between the superintendent and schools or school leaders. The literature speaks to variable ways that researchers define teams in organizational settings, measure team effectiveness in education, and capture the importance of trust in teams. However, there is a gap in the educational literature concerning trust and teams, specifically among teams within the central office in the K-12 education setting. During times of crisis, trust becomes even more critical, as does the expectation that teams are working interdependently, rather than working in silos (Cornell & Sheras, 1998). Through a qualitative case study of one district with more than 5,000 students in the northeast region of the United States, I examined collective trust in teams at the district level through the examination of the five facets of trust, leadership behaviors that create the conditions for team member inclusion as a means of working across boundaries, and the presence of a collective mission toward collective action.I found that the perceptions of trust among district leaders and principals varied and that the variance was influenced by one’s seniority in the district hierarchy. Proactive strategies for team member inclusion were impacted by a leader’s perception of his/her power to influence a given situation. Moreover, the stated purpose of team missions was most often connected to information-sharing; thus, district meetings were perceived as transactional in nature. As such, the findings support a small number of recommendations within K-12 districts to create the conditions for greater inclusion and collective trust in teams at the central office level: (1) narrow the five facets of trust that matter to district leaders and team members to align perception and expectations around what builds trusting relationships; (2) explicitly work to invite participation of team members to create inclusive communities; and (3) clearly define and consistently communicate an individual team’s purpose to create a collective mission aligned to overall district goals.