Implicit leadership theory: principals' sense-making and cognitive complexity

Rima'a Da'as*, Sherry Ganon-Shilon, Chen Schechter, Mowafaq Qadach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: This conceptual paper explores a novel model explaining teachers' perceptions of their effective leader through the lens of implicit leadership theory (ILT), using the concepts of school principals' sense-making and cognitive complexity (CC). Design/methodology/approach: The sense-making framework and CC theory were used to explain ILT, which focuses on individuals' perceptions of leaders' prototypical and anti-prototypical attributes. Findings: The theoretical model suggests that school principals as sense-makers with high levels of CC will be perceived by teachers as effective in terms of leadership prototypes, whereas teachers' perceptions of principals with low levels of CC will be related to leadership anti-prototypes. Research limitations/implications: This paper suggests a model for a multidimensional understanding of the relationship between principals' sense-making and CC and their influence on teachers' perceptions of an effective leader. Originality/value: Opening avenues for future research into employee perceptions of different leadership characteristics, this model emphasizes the cognitive aspects of school principals within implicit leadership theories. This theoretical model should be further examined empirically, and other types of CC, such as social and behavioral aspects, or affective complexity and self-complexity, should be considered.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)726-740
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Implicit leadership theory
  • Principals' cognitive complexity
  • Principals' sense-making


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