Principle of Legitimacy … Lessons from a Coach

cc photo credit

cc photo credit

In my work life, I am fortunate enough to collaborate with an amazing literacy coach who is one of the best educational leaders I’ve encountered.  I am also lucky to be sharing my life with her because she’s my wife.

Last year Tracey transitioned from her role as an elementary teacher and informal educational leader to a more formal leadership role as our literacy coach.  Now I realize I may be a little biased, but she really has done an amazing job!  It’s almost like she was born to be an instructional coach. You would be hard pressed to find a member of our large faculty who wouldn’t agree with me.  She has been able to improve learning, develop professional practice, manage change, implement new initiatives, provide engaging professional development, and simply make our school and district better.  What makes her work so amazing is that she is the lone instructional coach in a K-5 elementary school that is home to 1,200+ learners, 70+ faculty, continues to grow in size, and strives for continuous improvement.

There is a lot to like and admire about Tracey, and as a colleague and partner, I love to see her evolve as a leader and succeed in her new role.  For Christmas, Tracey gave me Malcolm Galdwell’s David and Goliath.  While reading about how underdogs succeed, I realized that much of Tracey’s success is built upon the “principle of legitimacy”.  Although this idea is a legal concept for reviewing laws it aptly applies to education and leadership in general.

Instructional coaches, principals, classroom teachers, and really anyone with positional authority who want to influence others, needs to understand the three components of the “principle of legitimacy”.

  1. People need to feel like they have a voice.  They need to feel that if they speak up, they will be heard.
  2. People need to feel that things are predictable, that your expectations and how you work, will roughly be the same tomorrow as they are today.
  3. People need to feel that things are fair. No one likes to be treated differently.

Like most exceptional leaders,  Tracey has been able to succeed in her role because of her legitimacy.  Not only does she possess the depth of knowledge and breath of experiences to be successful, she is also legitimate in her thoughts, words, and actions. In this case, actions certainly speak louder than words.

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