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.