To seek or not to seek professional help? School leaders' dilemma

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10 Scopus citations


Purpose - School leaders are professionals who need professional help to enable them better to cope with the ever-changing challenges characteristic to their daily routine. Yet, in considering their hierarchical position in schools, they may be reluctant to ask for professional assistance even when help is available and needed, attempting to maintain their power and firm image. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to explore how school leaders cope with this assumed dilemma. Design/methodology/approach - In-depth open interviews were conducted with Israeli school principals. These interviews were structured around a set of key issues that the literature identified as being related to help-seeking behavior. Findings - Data indicate principals' loneliness on the job and need for professional help. Yet it appears that the threat implied in exposing one's weaknesses, lack of reliable sources of help within the formal system, personal inhibitions and fears of damaging self-image and losing capacity to influence are barriers undermining their inclination to formally seek help. Therefore, they prefer to informally ask the assistance of lay individuals, but even then adopt various strategies such as avoidance, buffering and differentiation, attempting to prevent the assumed negative consequences associated with help-seeking behaviors. Originality/value - Theoretically, it is possible to conclude that those who are most in need due to their hierarchical position and role complexity are least likely to become involved in help-seeking behaviors. Creating an organizational culture that will encourage school principals to ask for help and establishing a discreet channel within the formal system that will provide professional advice are further discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)176-190
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2009


  • Employee assistance programmes
  • Leadership
  • Principals
  • Public education


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