The Three Secrets of Restorative Leadership


Whether you are a teacher or a preacher, a mentor or a manager, a coach or a caretaker – if you are trying to guide and influence others in this world – you are a leader.

There is much advice out there about effective leadership – from being more vulnerable to focusing on resilience to including more soul and spirit in your leadership to starting with the Why.

Today we will focus on what research has shown us about the three secrets of being a more Restorative Leader.

Secret #1: Set Higher Expectations


In a classic 1964 experiment, Dr. Robert Rosenthal randomly labeled some students in a San Francisco public school as “Bloomers”, telling their teachers these kids had the special ability to make dramatic academic improvements over the course of the year.

Indeed, the randomly labeled Bloomers showed astounding improvements on standardized tests, compared to their same age peers – as a result of the higher expectations of their teachers.

More than 50 years later, a plethora of studies have shown the powerful effects of high expectations across multiple settings. As reported in a Discover Magazine article on the subject:

“… when managers have high hopes for their employees, the workers become more productive. When military instructors believe trainees have superior skills, the trainees perform better.”

Even couples on the dating sight OKCupid who were told they were a good match (even though they were NOT) spent more time engaging with each other online.

Dr. Carol Dweck’s lifetime of research about the Growth Mindset shows the same results. Watch her video about the Power of Yet – about ways that different expectations can lead to improved student learning, effort, and progress – especially with struggling students.

Secret #2: Provide The Right Supports 

The Right Supports.png

Often, by the time we figure out our strategic plan and set our High Expectations, we have run out of energy and resources for providing the right supports to those we lead.
Yet, providing the right supports can make the difference between progress and failure on our watch.Studies from the educational and business world show that Supportive Leadership is directly linked to productivity, creativity and even safety in employees.

Business. Business leaders who are supportive of their teams have more productive and creative teams. Specific supportive actions include:

  • Showing empathy and interest in people
  • Taking time to coach or explain tasks
  • Showing a positive attitude towards new ideas and questions
  • Removing obstacles to ensure people receive the attention and resources they need
  • Linking core mission and goals to what matters most to people
  • Celebrating effort and ideas – not just success
  • Neutralizing negativity and creating an environment that has a tolerance for risk and failure
  • Leading by example by participating in idea generation and trial and error

Occupational Safety.  A study of more than 3,000 utility employees, which tracked injuries and first aid incidents over three years, found that teams with supportive leaders were more engaged and experienced fewer injuries!

Education. Several studies have shown that teachers consider supportive leadership as one of the most important factors in their job satisfaction and retention. Multiple studies have shown that emotional and instrumental support from teachers increases academic success and class climate.

Secret #3: Merge High Expectations with High Support to Create Winning Combination

Restorative Leadership Matrix.png


It is easy to see how a combination of HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND HIGH SUPPORT makes for a Restorative Leadership style which leads to ownership, motivation, and sustainability in those we lead.

However, when it comes to the Leadership Matrix, we all have a quadrant to which we SLIDE when we are under stress or duress.


Some of us slide to the left towards High Expectations-Low Support and find ourselves being snappy and harsh with others. This is often where we go to in our business or work lives when we are stretched.

Unfortunately, this only makes our lives harder in the long run, as this leadership style tends to elicit sabotage, resentment, and eventually hopelessness from those we lead.


Some of us find ourselves sliding SouthWest to the Low Expectations-Low Support quadrant – where we practice a kind of exhausted and (hopefully) benign neglect. Many people report that this is where they find themselves sliding at home when life is rough.

Alas, over time, this leadership style creates a confusing chaos and lack of productivity that eventually makes more work and headache for us.


Finally, some of us head straight South where we offer lots of praise and high-fives for “just showing up”.

Ironically, this leadership style leads to BOTH insecurity (they know they haven’t earned it) and entitlement (out of the habit of not working hard).

February is a traditionally hard months for many people – so if you find yourself slipping and sliding away from the Restorative Leadership Quadrant – you are not alone.

Take a minute to think about the ways in which you slide and ONE way you can raise either expectations or supports or both in order to slide on back to the top right corner – for that winning combination.



Three Lists of Books by African American Authors to Read in February and Beyond – Great Books – 10 Books I Wish My White Teachers Had Read

Washington Post – I Read All Books By Minority Authors for a Year (list at bottom of post)

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