Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Using Leader-Member Exchange Theory to Examine Principal-School Counselor Relationships, School Counselors' Roles, Job Satisfaction, and Turnover Intentions

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Using Leader-Member Exchange Theory to Examine Principal-School Counselor Relationships, School Counselors' Roles, Job Satisfaction, and Turnover Intentions

Article excerpt

Principals have considerable influence on shaping the role of school counselors with whom they work (Amatea & Clark, 2005; Dollarhide, Smith, & Lemberger, 2007; Ponec & Brock, 2000). Researchers used leader-member exchange theory (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995) to examine the relevance of principal-school counselor relationships to school counselors' role definition, job satisfaction, and turnover intentions. A path analysis model explained 15% of the variance in how school counselors' roles are defined at the building level, 49% of the variance in school counselors' job satisfaction, and 20% of the variance in school counselors' turnover intentions. Implications for school counseling practice and leadership are provided.

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Twenty-first-century professional school counselors are leaders, collaborators, advocates, and agents of change (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005). The ASCA National Model[R] (2005) emphasizes that school counselors should not work in isolation but instead engage in cooperative efforts with stakeholders to implement programs that meet all students' needs and support the mission of their school. There is a growing body of literature in which researchers describe and evaluate school counselors' relationships with stakeholders including teachers (Ray, 2007), parents or guardians (Bryan & Holcomb-McCoy; 2007; Mitchell & Bryan, 2007), and community members (Bryan & Holcomb-McCoy; Kolodinsky et al., 2006). Despite descriptions of school counselors' relationships with administrative stakeholders, such as principals, as essential (Dollarhide, Smith, & Lemberger, 2007; Lambie & Williamson, 2004; Zalaquett, 2005), the impact of these relationships has not been evaluated empirically.

LEADER-MEMBER EXCHANGE THEORY

Leader-member exchange (LMX) theory provides a framework for researchers to evaluate the impact of superior-subordinate relationships (Gerstner & Day, 1997). LMX theory is grounded in the belief that there are differences in the quality of relationships between leaders and their subordinates, referred to as members (Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975; Graen, Novak, & Sommerkamp, 1982; Liden & Graen, 1980). The value of the theory resides in the hypothesis that relationship quality is predictive of outcomes at the individual, group, and organizational levels (Gerstner & Day; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). Specifically, higher-quality relationships are associated with more positive organizational and member outcomes as well as fewer work-related problems.

LMX theory has been utilized as a foundation for evaluating the outcomes of superior-subordinate relationships in a variety of professional and paraprofessional fields (Gerstner & Day, 1997; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). Although LMX theory has been applied only on a limited basis to educational settings (Heck, Bedeian, & Day, 2005; Myers, 2006), the language that LMX theorists have used to describe superior-subordinate relationship quality is consistent with school counseling literature on principal-school counselor relationships as outlined below.

Prominent LMX theorists Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995) defined the construct of relationship quality as the degree to which trust, respect, and mutual obligation exist within a dyad. Similar language has been used by authors describing principal-school counselor relationships. For example, Ponec and Brock (2000) identified mutual trust as a characteristic of principal-school counselor relationships in schools with exemplary elementary counseling programs, and Zalaquett (2005) and Kaplan (1995) emphasized the importance of respect between principals and school counselors. The similarity in language between LMX theorists and principal and school counselor authors suggests that this organizational psychology theory may be applicable to principal-school counselor relationships.

Outcomes of superior-subordinate relationship quality that may be particularly salient for exploration in the school counseling profession include role definition, job satisfaction, and turnover intentions. …

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