Academic journal article Australian and International Journal of Rural Education

Rural Leadership Preparation Associated with Higher Job Satisfaction

Academic journal article Australian and International Journal of Rural Education

Rural Leadership Preparation Associated with Higher Job Satisfaction

Article excerpt


The retention rates of principals in rural areas are lower than in urban contexts, and the preparation of such leaders is often lacking (Clarke, Stevans, & Wildy, 2006; Gates, Ringel, Santibanez, Guarino, Ghosh-Dastidar & Brown, 2006). Rural school leaders who do not receive early preparation may be less able to perform in their jobs and hence experience poorer job satisfaction. Herein we investigate whether rural school leaders who received preparation prior to their appointment experience higher levels of job satisfaction in their roles than those who received no such preparation. Across 658 rural school leaders, we find a small increase in job satisfaction for rural principals who received formal preparation prior to the commencement of their leadership position than those who did not, even after controlling for demographic and school factors. The increased satisfaction for prepared principals remained statistically significant even after we statistically controlled for the number of years they had been an educational leader. Formal preparation of rural principals may result in long lasting small increases in job satisfaction, and may play a role in larger strategies to increase rural school leaders' job satisfaction.


Effective school leadership is critical for student achievement and school survival (Browne-Ferrigno & Allen, 2006; Epstein, Galindo, & Sheldon, 2011; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom., 2004; Robinson, Lloyd, & Rowe, 2008). In rural communities, educational leaders are a rich source of intellectual capital and contribute toward capacity building and sustainability (Anderson, Davis, Douglas, Lloyd, Niven, & Thiele, 2010). Rural schools have fewer applicants for leadership positions (Barty, Thomson, Blackmore, & Sachs, 2005), and once appointed, principals are often underprepared to undertake rural leadership positions (Clarke, Stevans, & Wildy, 2006). Retention rates of rural principals are also lower, with rural principals more likely to leave the school system than urban ones (Gates, Ringel, Santibanez, Guarino, Ghosh-Dastidar, & Brown, 2006). The latter in particular may be indicative of lower job satisfaction for rural principals, since job satisfaction is closely linked to absenteeism and staff turnover (Barber, 1986; Freudenberger, 1975; Mobley, 1977).

Research on job satisfaction dates back to the Great Depression (Circa 1930), when researchers quantified that up to one third of the workforce were dissatisfied in their roles (Hoppock, 1935). In this context, factors that contributed to job satisfaction became of interest to researchers (Hoppock, 1935; Barnard, 1938). Since that time, research has found that greater employee satisfaction is associated with workers being more committed to the organisation, a term known as organisational citizenship (Williams & Anderson, 1991). Similarly, greater employee satisfaction is associated with reductions in employee burnout, being defined as a combination of disengagement and exhaustion (Baruch-Feldman, Brondolo, Ben-Dayan, & Schwartz, 2002). Reduced staff turnover is also evident for employees who are more satisfied (Mobley, 1977). Research also suggests that improving the satisfaction of employees will result in small gains in employee productivity (Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985). Therefore it is in the interests of employing agencies to ensure that staff satisfaction is as high as possible.

Underpinning the association between job satisfaction and positive outcomes for employees and employers is Jayaratne and Chess' (1984) theoretical model of employee burnout. Jayaratne and Chess reason that when an employee is faced with negative job facets such as poor comfort, financial rewards and promotion opportunities, they feel depersonalized, characterised by a lack of control. Further the lack of positive job factors leads to exhaustion, withdrawal and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. …

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