How to Establish a Culture of Trust and Psychological Safety in Schools with Corey Tavella

How to Establish a Culture of Trust and Psychological Safety in Schools with Corey Tavella | Season 2: Episode 12

In this episode of the Well-Led Schools Podcast, we welcomed returning guest Corey Tavella, principal of Thomas More College in South Australia- a large co-ed school with almost 1,100 students that has grown over 30% since his time as principal.

Corey recently completed his Master’s degree, focusing on measuring effective school leadership using an autoethnographic method. In this method, he acted as both a researcher and used himself as evidence. As such, he’s had much time to reflect on his leadership approach from the time he first became deputy principal to now, with six years as principal under his belt. 

This episode’s conversation centers on effective leadership approaches, with an emphasis on building and maintaining trust to cultivate a psychologically safe work environment.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The significance of knowing yourself, your values, and what you stand for and how that can guide everyday choices and decisions
  • The differences between an authoritative and authoritarian leadership approach
  • Corey’s honest reflections on who he was as a leader when he first started and how his approach has evolved since then
  • Why Corey values presence as a leader and how he integrates it as a guiding principle in his school
  • The difficult challenge of establishing but also maintaining a high-performing executive team and school culture despite the turnover of leaders and staff
  • What an environment of trust looks, sounds and feels like in a school
  • Common barriers to establishing and maintaining trust in schools
  • The importance of speaking up to the right people when you are unhappy with something at work
  • Ways to sustain trust as a collective
  • How principals can support new leaders and middle leaders to develop their knowledge and skills in effective leadership and trust-building  

About Corey:

Corey Tavella is currently the Principal of Thomas More College in South Australia, a relatively large 7-12 school of almost 1100 students from 7-12 (co-ed). This is his sixth year as Principal, having been a Deputy Principal at two schools, one all-boys and one all-girls. Corey has recently completed his masters degree with his main research focussing on measuring effective school leadership using an autoethnographic method where he acted as both researcher and evidence, given his focus on was measuring the effectiveness of his first five years of Principalship. 

One of his key tenets of leadership is presence, which, he believes, lends itself well to staff well-being. By aiming to be present for his staff, he wants to ensure they all know they are heard, valued, cared for, and respected. Corey has been in education for 24 years, and these last six years are the first in which he has not taught students. 

Links and Resources:

Thank you so much for listening. I’m so honoured that you’re here and would be so grateful if you could leave me a review on Apple Podcasts or on your preferred podcast app, that way we can inspire and educate even more people together.

Explore the Well-Led Schools Partnership Program: 

Listen to S1 Ep. 7 With Corey Tavella: The Guiding Principles For Leading Your School With Wellbeing In Mind 

Connect with Corey:

Coreys work with his Executive Team’s Leadership statement via LinkedIn: 

On Linkedin: 

Connect with me via:

My website 



From the blog

Browse my blog for the latest tips on optimising your health, wellness, lifestyle and everything in between!
11 minute read

Principal Vision: A Foundational Step in Creating a School Culture That Prioritises Wellbeing

Without a clear vision of where we are going, our staff end up confused. One of the key steps for creating a positive school culture…

9 minute read

Adopting An Inquiry Approach to Staff Wellbeing and School Culture in Our Schools

Blanket approaches to staff wellbeing don’t work. Outsourcing staff wellbeing workshops, offering the odd morning tea, and encouraging teacher self-care are all helpful strategies to…

9 minute read

The Secret Recipe for Motivating Your Staff to Implement Change in The Workplace

Are you looking to make some significant changes in your school? Whether implementing a new strategy or focusing on a new initiative or program, you…