Predicting leaders’ behaviours – the determinant of attitude

Theory of Planned Behaviour

The first determinant is the attitude towards the behaviour and refers to the degree to which a person has a favourable or unfavourable ‘evaluation or appraisal of the behavior in question’ (Ajzen, 1991b, p. 189). Ajzen calls this appraisal ‘outcome evaluation’ (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

Ajzen & Fishbein (1980) outlined a process for the measurement of attitude using the three determinants. The first step was the identification of the person’s beliefs about the behaviour in question, with beliefs representing the information individuals have about objects. The second step was determining the judgement that the individual makes as to whether or not the behaviour is favourable (Ajzen, 1991b).

In the field: Applying the determinant of attitude to leaders’ managing accountability…

Ajzen’s understanding of attitude as a determinant of intention is reflected in Shipps’ (2012) research, whereby principals needed to make decisions whether to rely on external political resources in carrying out their accountability requirements. Principals in Shipps’ research identified that one of the possible consequences of relying on political resources in meeting the accountability expectations may generate conflict among stakeholders. Although the principals may have seen this as being a negative outcome (outcome evaluation), they did not see it as likely to happen (likelihood of outcome). Thus, based on their evaluation and all other things being equal, principals would be likely to rely on external political resources. In this current research, some principals utilised these resources to the advantage of the school.

Conversely, applying the same determinant to the research study by Spillane, Diamond, et al. (2002) could lead to the opposite result. Their research found that principals need to decide whether to adopt a mandated accountability policy. Some principals considered that a possible consequence of adopting mandated policy would be resentment by educators, which they perceived as negative (outcome evaluation) and likely (likelihood of outcome). In this case, it is predicted that the attitude developed would predispose principals to reject the policy as expected by the authority. This is precisely what happened in Spillane’s study, with principals not adopting policies as expected. This application of behavioural beliefs to these two research studies demonstrates the usefulness of Ajzen’s theory in understanding a leader’s evaluation outcomes about accountability and their influence on a leader’s behaviours.


Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behavior. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.

Ajzen, I. (Ed.) (2012). The Theory of Planned Behavior (Vol. 1). London: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Prediction of goal-directed behavior: Attitudes, intentions, and perceived behavioral control. Englewood Cliffs: NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Shipps, D. (2012). Empowered Or Beleaguered? Principals’ Accountability Under New York City’s Diverse Provider Regime. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 20(1), 1- 40.

Spillane, J. P., Diamond, J. B., Burch, P., Hallett, T., Jita, L., & Zoltners, J. (2002). Managing in the middle: School leaders and the enactment of accountability policy. Educational Policy, 16(5), 731-762. doi:10.1177/089590402237311

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