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Marlon Sukal, Linda Talley


Research has shown that a leaders’ behavior can impact employee organizational outcomes and how employees engage at work. The primary purpose of this qualitative, interpretive, phenomenological study was to interview a purposeful sample of teachers and a principal at an underperforming school to examine and understand their lived experiences and the meaning of principal–teacher relationships in underperforming schools using a servant leadership framework. The goal was to describe principals/teachers’ experiences, perceptions, and meanings associated with servant leadership in building relationships. Data were collected by conducting semistructured interviews. Following an interpretive phenomenological analysis approach, the data were transcribed and coded for emerging themes. Participants expressed that preparation programs need to provide field experience opportunities because lack of experience leads to organizational issues, particularly at underperforming schools. Participants also indicated that their motivation and engagement were negatively affected by a lack of collaboration, feedback, and support from leadership. Conversely, positive experiences that promoted team collaboration, inclusion in the decision process, and communication enhanced motivation and engagement. The impact of positive social change included providing information that can be used to improve the standards and quality of leadership regarding building positive principal–teacher relationships in underperforming schools.

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