Rural Elementary Principals' Transformational Leadership and Trust-Building Efforts



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Abstract Purpose: Rural principals’ trust-building efforts have not been comprehensively investigated, and there is a lack of research concerning how rural principals build trust with teachers in relation to their leadership style. The purpose of the research was to develop an understanding of how rural elementary principals build trust with teachers and how the principal’s leadership style relates to their trust-building efforts. Research Design: A qualitative grounded theory approach was used to understand a phenomenon by examining the perspectives (Corley, 2015) and experiences (du Plessis & Marais, 2017) of rural principals and teachers, utilizing semi-structured interviews to conceptualize data to generate a theory. Data were analyzed through iterative, open, axial, and selective coding. Findings: Findings indicated that rural principals did not identify with leadership style labels but rather actions or behaviors related to their leadership approaches and efforts to build trust. The overarching conceptual theme, support mechanisms, emerged as central to the development of trust through leadership actions/behaviors. Teachers’ perceptions pointed out that principals' supportive behaviors developed trust, and concepts within the emergent categories were related to trust facets of benevolence, reliability, honesty, openness, and competency. Principals identified with category sets of communication, relationships, provisions, rural context, and expectations, some of which had transformational underpinnings connected to trust. Implications: These findings help rural principals and the scholars who study them focus on leadership behaviors, such as communication, relationship building, expectations, provisions, and transformational behaviors that support the development of trust-building



Rural schools, trust, principal, leadership styles, grounded theory, empirical article


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