Friday, 18 November 2011

Espoused Theory vs. Theory of Action

As a leader, how do your espoused theory and your theory of action align?

As leaders, we each have some essential beliefs and messages that we deem to be important.  Part of our work is to ensure consistent messaging of what is important in the work we do in our schools/organizations.  This consistency helps staff to know what the focus of the work is and that it is not changing frequently.  No one works well when they are aiming at a moving target.  The essential beliefs and messages that you speak about are your espoused theory.

The problem with espoused theories is that they don't always align with our theories of action.  For example, in schools, we may claim that we believe deeply in student learning and ensuring that every student is successful.  However, does our theory of action align?  In other words, do our actions align with what we claim we believe in and what we stand for?  This is tough to answer for ourselves.  We may believe we can but how accurate are we?  In truth, only those we serve (students, parents, clients, customers) and those we lead can truly shed light on how well our actions align with our words.  Do our espoused theories align with our theories of action?  Does it matter to you?  If so, you'll want to determine some ways to find out.  Anonymous surveys are very helpful.  Nothing breeds cynicism more quickly than leaders who say one thing and act in a different way. 

As a guide, remember the old saying: Don't worry whether they are listening to you or not.  Worry that they are watching you.

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