Exploring School Principals’ Systems Thinking Activities


Source: Leadership and Policy in Schools 


This study aims to explore the frequency and extent of principals’ use of systems thinking activities in Israel; to examine whether principals’ gender and seniority predict their systems thinking activities; and to determine how systems thinking activities are related to school outcomes. Results indicated that principals’ seniority predicted their extent of systems thinking, but no differences were found within principals’ gender. Positive correlations between principals’ systems thinking and middle-leaders’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment were found. Implications for theory, practice, as well as future research, are discussed.


System Thinking (ST) provides a framework and tools to engage with multiple perspectives and recognize interrelationships among organizational elements (McCaughan & Palmer, 2018). Insofar as ST was found as a beneficial management approach, which enables us to cope effectively with complex systems (Wilson & Van Haperen, 2015), the current study examined the usage of ST activities by elementary school principals in Israel.

First, findings revealed that Adopting a multidimensional view and Evaluating significance are the ST activities most frequently engaged in by principals.

Second, while gender was not found to be associated with principals’ ST (PST), seniority in the organization was found to be negatively related to PST.

Third, PST was found to improve the organizational qualities of middle-leaders’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Finally, and importantly, this study’s results confirmed not only that PST is advantageous to job satisfaction and organizational commitment, but that principals tend to perform more frequently the specific activities, Evaluating significance and Adopting a multidimensional view that enhance organizational qualities. These findings suggest that developing the ability to perform at the systems level may help principals meet the complexity of today’s school leadership successfully, promoting school organizational outcomes.

McCaughan, N., & Palmer, B. (2018). Systems thinking for harassed managers. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wilson, B., & Van Haperen, K. (2015). Soft systems thinking, methodology and the management of change. London, UK: Palgrave

Updated: Jun. 02, 2020