Autonomy-Supportive Leadership

Be aware of your team and their reactions to change

From despair to acceptance: how to lead your team through COVID19.

The answers may lie in a psychological model called The Kübler-Ross Change Curve, also known as the 5 Stages of Grief. It outlines the stages of emotions experienced by a person in relation to loss. This concept has since been extended and applied to any situation relating to change, as it is usually equated with some loss, however minor. Here are the reactions outlined in the model from resistance to acceptance:

It illustrates the different stages of personal transition — from the point you encounter change to when you finally arrive at acceptance (integration). Understanding where your team members stand on the curve will help you keep them motivated throughout the change process. Plotting them on the change curve and quickly identifying who can make the journey and who you need to support should be one of your top priorities.

How might this look for members of your team in the changes in their working life due to COVID-19?

Focus on those who are stuck in the “depression” stage, and see if you can help get them on board. If you don’t already have regular team meetings, get them underway immediately. These can be done virtually or when back at school remember to include those still working from home.

Use the meetings to energise those who have accepted change, over communicate the long-term objectives of the transformation and ensure your team members feel “Autonomy-supportive leadership” and you actively promote empowerment and self-initiation among your team.

Teachers who perceive their school leaders to be more autonomy-supportive report greater workplace buoyancy. Workplace buoyancy is the capacity to effectively navigate common challenges at work—and may be particularly important in navigating the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Guidance on how to implement autonomy-supportive leadership include:


Listening to teachers’ needs. Listening to their requirements/issues/ training needs for delivery of online learning, but most importantly in relation to the return to school – and addressing any anxieties.


Acknowledging and attempting to understand issues from teachers’ perspectives. Providing teachers opportunities to voice the difficulties and the opportunities that arise during COVID-19 and the numerous changes of practice.


Seeking teachers’ input in decision-making at the school-level.  Asking teachers how best to approach different events and tasks scheduled during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Providing rationales for the tasks required by teachers. Explaining the how’s and whys around the various tasks and operational/strategic decisions being made at Trust and School level.

Autonomy-Supportive Leadership