“Leadership is changing and approaches focusing on flexibility, collaboration, crossing boundaries and collective leadership are expected to become a high priority.” (Martin, 2007 p.3) Leadership is a complicated and multi-layered process which involves various approaches to problem solving and facilitation ensuring school success. School leadership is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of school clients and community members as various influencing factors work to alter the school leadership landscape. Throughout the following paper I am going to explore effective leadership practices including my results from the Connecticut State School Board educational leadership profile questionnaire.
Effective leadership practices are based on best practices and backed by real world studies as to their effects on school communities and school climate. Also mixed into various educational leadership approaches are the personalities and value structures of the leaders themselves. In discussing these issues I am utilizing the following five leadership assets as covered by Steve Fortier in his article “Community Leadership: Inside and Out”. First leadership must have purpose as “the leadership challenge is to create unity of purpose amongst diversity and to expand the leadership capacity in the network.” (Payne, 2005 p. 5) Purpose is then used to frame the context of decision making and goal setting for a school through providing boundaries within its structure as to not take on too many school based initiatives and burn oneself out. As Fink and Hargraves state, “leadership that drains its leaders dry is not leadership that will last. Unless reformers and policy-makers care for leaders’ personal and professional selves, they will engineer short-term gains only by mortgaging the entire future of leadership.” (Fink & Hargraves, 2003 p. 8) As a leaders purpose will drive decision making a clarity of purpose is key in solidifying values as well. Leadership values along with a sense of purpose can guide authentic leadership practices as developed through being a reflective practicioner. As leaders we need to close the gap between idealistic notions of utopian school settings and realistic effective school practices. “Collaboration, listening, empowerment, shared leadership, inclusively and democracy are a few values that, when acted upon, build community.” (Fortier, 1999 p. 2) Ultimately the larger community context in which the school should be an integral part of is the goal of administrative staff.
Neither of the above mentioned leadership attributes can provide direction if not advanced through leadership talents. Leadership talents are directly connected to ones leadership values and personality traits. An important aspect of talent is being able to discover or inspire a leadership want in others as “doing so creates what [Fortier] call a communiteam–a high-performing team at a community level.” (Fortier, 1999 p. 2) A major influence on leadership talents comes from leaders connecting with resources found both on site and within the community. Effective leaders must tap into all available community resources from traditional to non-traditional and should take into consideration the interests of stakeholders and community members as to leverage their engagement but not exclude the interests of those parties during decision-making.
As a final combination of leadership attributes Fortier brings all the elements together in leadership Vision. Even with all the above factors of leadership running concurrently all elements need to coalesce into a single leadership vision. The vision must combine a variance of approaches and perspective to be successful and leaders need to examine the past to discern where they want to be in the future in order to plan for today.
As stated earlier a leadership style is as varied as the leader and the individual perceptions the leader holds as values. Although every leadership situation carries with it its own unique set of issues a leader must attend to in order to achieve progress and success, there are three factors that influence a leadership situation. One need also to pay regard to the subtle nuances within each respective setting acknowledging the uniqueness of each situation. In the article “Leadership Styles” three factors that influence which leadership style used the following three factors are discussed as having influence on leadership: 1. The manager’s personal background: What personality, knowledge, values, ethics, and experiences does the manager have. What does he or she think will work? 2. Staff being supervised: Staff individuals with different personalities and backgrounds; The leadership style used will vary depending upon the individual staff and what he or she will respond to best 3. The organization: The traditions, values, philosophy, and concerns of the organization influence how a manager acts. With consideration to the above three factors I completed the Connecticut State School Board self assessment on educational leadership examining through reflection my personal influences, strengths and areas of improvement.
The Connecticut State School Board in collaboration with the Secretary of the State composed an “Educational Leadership Self inventory” which allows educational leaders to check her or his leadership style against a principals effectiveness graph (refer to appendix A for graph results). The twelve areas measured are: 1. The educated person. 2. The learning process. 3. The teaching process. 4. Diverse perspectives. 5. School goals. 6. School culture. 7. School standards and assessment 8. School improvement. 9. Professional development. 10. Integration of staff evaluations, professional evaluation and school improvement. 11. Organization, resource, and school policies, and 12. School community relations. Once completed I reflected on the results of my scores with comparison to the Leadership Profile provided at the end of the questionnaire. My profile indicated the three areas of relative strength with consideration of the 12 standards are: 1. The educated person with a mean score of 3.29/4. 2. The learning process with a mean score of 3.4/4 and 3. School culture with the highest mean score of 3.5/4. On the low end of my educational profile with consideration of the 12 standards were the following: 1. Integration of staff evaluations, professional development and school improvement with a mean score of 2.4/4 2. Organization, resource and school policies with a mean score of 2.43/4 and 3. Diverse perspective with a mean score of 2.5/4. There are certain elements of the questionnaire that cannot be achieved by the classroom teacher and consideration to those standards was given as the survey was completed.
What do these scores mean for my leadership profile? Examining first the higher scoring standards the profile generated has my leadership style focused on the development of purpose, providing real time dialogue regarding the school mission and focuses on the development of a shared vision including fostering a climate of openness, mutual respect, support and inquiry. My profile also scored well in the area of staying current with research and theory, encouraging students to assume responsibilities and higher level skill development. The last of the higher mean scores focus’ on modelling and mentor-ship where the key indicators highlight positive working relationships with staff, students, and community members. This all works to keep the schools vision in the forefront of being a part of a learning community.
Areas on the Educational leadership survey where my mean scores were the lowest focused around staff development and staff evaluation. Based on these results I will focus on developing proficiency in the following leadership abilities once in a position where it is my responsibility to evaluate staff. As part of the profile where my mean score was the lowest was in regards to staff evaluation and professional development I take into consideration this score was low due to my role as a classroom teacher in which I am limited in my responsibilities of staff evaluation requirements. Also the other areas in which low mean scores occurred where whole staff development opportunities should exist and was as various policy and school based decisions where classroom teachers are not normally involved in such matters. As a result I am not discouraged by the low mean scores in these areas but see them as areas in which to be cognizant once in a leadership position where the standards are within my ability to affect.
Once in a position of leadership I hope to take on system wide leadership roles, keep focus with moral and strategic purpose, commit to build connections and networks, better the education experience for all children, transform schools into learning communities and empower others to take on leadership roles and plan for succession. I am aware the preceding list of leadership wants highlights lofty aspirations however I believe that if we do not plan for the betterment of tomorrow we will be stuck in the permanence of today.
Fink, D, & Hargraves, A. (2003, December). The seven principles of sustainable leadership. Retrieved from www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/../seven_principles.pdf
Fortier, S. (1999). Community leadership: inside and out. Retrieved from www.communiteam.org/commleadership.pdf
Martin, A. (2007). The changing nature of leadership. Retrieved from www.ccl.org
Payne, G. (2005). Reshaping the landscape outward-facing leadership with a system perspective. Retrieved from networkedlearning.ncsl.org.uk/../nexus/issue-6/nexus-06-complete-issue.pdf
Spillane, J.P., Halverson, R. and Drummond, J.B. (2001). ‘Investigating school leadership practice: A distributed perspective’, Educational Researcher. 30 (3), 23-28.