Does the Way Leaders Think Influence the Way they Act?


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The main question of this study is, are more cognitively complex Hong Kong school leaders (principals, vice-principals, and senior masters) more behaviorally complex than less cognitively complex leaders? To get answers to our question we used a quantitative non-experimental design to assess school leaders’ cognitive and behavioral complexity and then examined moderators that influenced the relationship. The thinking skills found in The Strategic Thinking Questionnaire (STQ) where grouped into the cognitive complexity scale. The leader influence actions found in The Strategic Leader Questionnaire (SLQ) were grouped into the behavioral complexity scale and their relationship was analyzed. School type, leader role position, educational level, age, and gender were employed as moderators

The cognitive and behavioral complexity data was collected from 356 Hong Kong school leaders. The data were analyzed through descriptive and multivariate analyses. The first major finding was that cognitive complexity is moderated by the position held, age, and education level of the leader. School principals displayed greater cognitive complexity than vice principals or senior masters. Older school leaders, and those with advance academic degrees were more cognitively complex. The second major finding is that while behavioral complexity is also influenced by position the leader holds, it is not associated with higher academic degrees. Finally, we also found that more highly cognitively complex leaders were prone to be more behaviorally complex. We concluded that cognitive complexity can be influenced by education while behavioral complexity may be more associated with experience on the job; even though higher levels of cognitive complexity do related to higher levels of behavioral complexity.
This research makes a significant contribution to the literature on cognition and behavior. This study has both theoretical and practical significance. On the theoretical side, notions of leader cognition and behavior have traveled on mostly parallel paths empirically. This study joints them to test a commonly held believe that in today’s turbulent environment leaders who are cognitively and behaviorally complex will be more effective school leaders. On the practical side, the study produces implications for the selection and succession of school leaders as well as for the need for advanced cognitive and behavioral training and university academic programs.

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  • Nick just give them enough background to get a feel for it
  • Educational ImportanceFor students in today’s colleges and universities, the concept of strategic thinking may be somewhat new, but could be critical to their eventual academic success (Boon, 2001; Zins 2004). This point was emphasized in an American Psychological Association report suggesting that “The successful learner can create and use a repertoire of thinking and reasoning strategies to achieve complex learning goals (APA, 1993, 1997 as cited in Zins, et. al. 2004 p. 29-30).Understanding what makes students successful in academics is essential, not just for the students themselves, but for the universities which hope to retain and educate them.
  • SLers develop four core competencies to run this system.SLers work in a generative way that enables them to apply THE SL Method tasks: (a) anticipating changes, challenges and opportunities in internal and external environments, (b) creating and articulating common values and direction in a generative/minimum specifications manner, (c) establishing and using social capital to mobilize actions, and (d) building the capacity of their organizations by anchoring the learning in engaged self managed followers/teams.The greater their capacity to use Strategic Thinking Skills; the greater is their ability to make consequential decisions about ends, strategies, and tactics.SLers can see the invisible ties that link individuals together and to the organization.
  • Finding – Local culture influences use of strategic leader influence actionsFindingsManaging -Sig between Miami and Shang .035Transforming – Sig between Broward and Miami .000 – HK .000 and Shang .04Bonding – Broward & Miami .000 & HK .013 = HK & Broward – Miami .000 & Shang .000Bridging - Broward & HK .000 & Shang .004 = Miami & HK .000 & Shang .005 HK & all .000 = Shang & HK .000Bartering – Broward & HK .000 & Shang .004 Miami & HK.000 & shang .000 - HK & all .000 Shang & all
  • Does the Way Leaders Think Influence the Way they Act?

    1. 1. HK School Leaders Cognitive Complexity and their Ability to Influence their Followers John Pisapia, Professor Department of Ed Leadership & Res Methods Florida Atlantic University Nicholas Pang, Professor Department of Ed Adm & Policy Chinese University of Hong Kong Paper presented to the World Educational Research Association (WERA), Sydney, Australia December 3, 2012 The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong for the support of this research (RGC Ref. No.: 452710) Pisapia & Pang (2012) 1
    2. 2. The Research SettingInstitutions worldwide are operating in conditions of environmental complexity, ambiguity, and sometimes chaos. Hong Kong Schools are no Different
    3. 3. Problem and PurposeThe leadership literature suggests that high environmentalcomplexity requires leaders with high cognitive and behavioralcomplexity (Bass, 2007; Hambrick & Mason, 1984; Hooijberg &Quinn 1992; Kaiser, Lindberg, & Craig, 2007; Mintzberg &Waters, 1982).Regrettably, while commonly defined, they have traveledmostly parallel paths empirically. This study seeks to findevidence that the paths cross.The main question of this study is, are more cognitivelycomplex Hong Kong school leaders (principals, vice-principals,and senior masters) more behaviorally complex than lesscognitively complex leaders? & Pang (2012) Pisapia 3
    4. 4. Research StreamsTwo distinct leadership research streams – leader cognitive andbehavioral complexity – are suggested as ways to be successfulunder these new environmental conditions.In their simplest forms, cognitive and behavioral complexityrefers to the capacity of a given leader to engage in widerepertoire of thinking and influence behaviors.The assumption being that if you are able to engage in a widerarray of thinking skills and behaviors you will be more effectivethan a person with lower cognitive and behavioral complexity.This assumption underlies the working hypothesis of ourefforts. “in times of complexity leaders who are cognitively andbehaviorally complex produce better results than those lesscognitively and behaviorally complex” (Pisapia, 2009). Pisapia & Pang (2012) 4
    5. 5. The way we have tested the hypothesis Competency #1 1. Leaders must possess an Agile mind.They use strategic thinking skills-systems thinking - reflection - reframing - which enable them to think strategically. These skills make it possible to recognize patterns, make sense out of seemingly unrelated information. They use them to switch from a strategic mindset -“Why and What” - to a tactical mindset -“How and When” - in a rapid and iterative processes when appropriate.Tool Used: The Strategic Thinking Questionnaire (STQ) Pisapia & Pang (2012) 5
    6. 6. Table 1 Subscales of the Strategic Thinking Questionnaire (STQ)StrategicThinking DescriptionSkills Systems thinking refers to the leader’s ability to see systemsSystems holistically by understanding the properties, forces, patterns andThinking interrelationships that shape the behavior of the system, which hence provides options for action. Reflecting refers to the leader’s ability to weave logical and rational thinking, through the use of perceptions, experience andReflecting information, to make judgments on what has happened, and creation of intuitive principles that guide future actions. Reframing refers to the leader’s ability to switch attention across multiple perspectives, frames, mental models, and paradigms toReframing generate new insights and options for actions.
    7. 7. The way we have tested the hypothesis Competency # 2 Leaders use multiple influence actions.They are able to create momentum by usingmanaging - transforming - bonding - bridging -bartering – influence actions.They use these actions in a generative waybecause they know that change will be fast ifpeople are engaged - slow – if not!Tool: The Strategic Thinking Questionnaire (SLQ) Pisapia & Pang (2012) 7
    8. 8. Table 2 Subscales of the Strategic Leadership Questionnaire (SLQ) Leader Description Actions Managing actions are taken to maintain consistency in order that currentManaging organizational goals are accomplished efficiently and effectively. Transforming actions are taken to influence direction, actions, and opinions in order to change organizational conditions and culture so thatTransforming learning and change occur as a normal routine of the organization. Bonding actions are taken to ensure that trust is an attribute of the system and not just something developed among individuals in order thatBonding followers exhibit emotional commitment to the organizations aspirations and values. Bridging actions are taken to develop alliances with people of power and influence from outside and inside the organization in order to gainBridging insights, support, and resources. Bartering actions are taken to give something in exchange in orderBartering to strengthen the effectiveness of relationships and alliance building efforts.
    9. 9. The Current StudyDesign Quantitative non-experimental Data CollectionPredictor variables – Leader Cognitive skills Instruments:Criterion variable – Leader Influence Actions 1.STQ©self measures three thinking skills: systems thinking, reflecting, and reframing. 25 questions - 5-Hypotheses point Likert scale. Psychometrically validated in theH1: School leaders’ use of cognitive USA Pisapia, Morris, Cavanaugh, and Ellington,thinking skills and leader behavioral 2011), and also in China (Pang & Pisapia, 2012).influence actions is contextually 2 SLQ© self measures the five leader actions ofmoderated. Bridging, Bartering, Bonding, Managing -H2 School leader cognitive complexity is Transforming - 35 questions - 5-point Likertlinked to their behavioral complexity. scale. Psychometrically validated in the USA (Reyes-Guerra 2009; Pisapia 2009), and in ChinaH3 HCC school leaders are more (Pang & Pisapia, 2010; Pang & Pisapia, 2012).behaviorally complex than LCC school Features: Omission rate and inconsistency index. Reliability: All reliability alphas > .70Sample – except bartering alpha = .68Schools Elementary 180 – Secondary 180 – SpecialSchools 20. invited to participate. 629 school Data Analysisleaders responded – 270 cases were removed Descriptive statistics, univariate analyses of variance and regression analyses Correlation and RegressionCases Used - Principals 356 (132, VP 150 ,SeniorMasters 71) Pisapia & Pang (2012) 9
    10. 10. H1: School leaders’ use of cognitive thinking skills and leader behavioral influence actions are contextually moderated.• Cognitive Complexity (CC) is • Behavioral Complexity (BC) was moderated by position held, age, influenced by position held; and education level of the leader. school principals are more BC School principals displayed higher than vice principals, or senior CC than vice principals or senior masters. The position effect size masters. Vice principals displayed was small (ES =.02) higher CC than senior masters. The • BC is strongly influenced by Age, position effect size was small (ES = (ES=.18) .048) • BC was not influenced by• Older school leaders with advance academic degrees, or gender. academic degrees were more CC Gender produced no significant than younger school leaders. modifying effects in either• Effect sizes ranged from small for cognitive or behavioral degrees received (ES =.05) to large complexity. for age (ES =.185) and age plus degree (ES =.217). Pisapia & Pang (2012) 10
    11. 11. H2 Cognitive Complexity is linked to Behavioral Complexity Transforming 0.28 Managing Behavioral CC 0.06 .r2=12 Complexity Bonding 0.48 0.01 Bridging 0.02 Bartering (X Variables)Figures given are Eta2 and are significant at 0.00 level. (Y Variables) Pisapia Pisapia (2012) & Pang 11 11
    12. 12. H3HCC School Leaders are more Behaviorally Complex than LCC School Leaders 5.00 4.50 4.00 3.50 3.00 2.50 Transforming Managing Bonding Bridging Bartering HCC 4.02 3.87 4.48 3.31 2.88 LCC 3.70 3.76 4.10 3.15 2.99 Pisapia & Pang (2011) 12
    13. 13. Conclusions How Hong School Leaders Think Cognitive Complexity is influenced by Position, Education, and Age How Hong School Leaders Act Cognitive and Behavioral Complexity are linked. School leaders, who demonstrated Higher cognitive complexity, also reported greater Behavioral Complexity, particularly in transforming, bonding, managing and bridging School leaders, who demonstrated Lower cognitive complexity reported greater use of bartering Pisapia Pisapia & Pang (2012) 13
    14. 14. What does it mean? How leaders think relates to how they act!Cognitively Complex leader’s multifaceted use ofleadership influence actions has been demonstratedin other studies to be strongly associated with• self reported effectiveness (Yasin , 2006 UĞurluoĞlu 2009);• effectiveness reported by others; (Reyes- Guerra, 2009); and• objective measures of effectiveness (Fazzino 2012- School achievement )
    15. 15. Recommendations For School Leaders, Cultivate broader thinking skills, and leader influence actions. For governing bodies, invest in training. Thinking can be trained for; behaviors are more associated with experience. For Universities and high schools , incorporate synthesis as well as analysis, and creative as well as critical thinking skills into their curricula. Pang Pisapia & Pang (2012) 15
    16. 16. Thank you! Q&AEAP Seminar Pisapia && Pisapia Pang Pang (2012) 16 16