The Strategies of a Leader
This digest outlines the tenets of three broad leadership strategies--hierarchical, transformational, and facilitative. It offers the following guidelines for choosing leadership strategies: (1) leaders should use strategies flexibly; (2) leaders should balance short-term and long-term needs; (3) strategic choices must serve institutional values; and (4) the same action can serve more than one strategy.
This digest examines transformational leadership, which focuses on the importance of teamwork and comprehensive school improvement, as an alternative to other modes of leadership. Transformational leadership is contrasted with: (1) instructional leadership, which encompasses hierarchies and leader supervision and usually excludes teacher development; and (2) transactional leadership, which is based on an exchange of services for various kinds of rewards that the leader controls, at least in part.
- Facilitative Leadership
Influenced by leadership developments in the private sector, educational researchers have increasingly focused their attention on 'transformational' models of leadership that emphasize collaboration and empowerment. The facilitative leader's role is to foster the involvement of employees at all different levels. This digest summarizes current research on facilitative leadership.
- Can Instructional Leaders Be Facilitative Leaders?
Today, prevailing views of leadership suggest that the principal's role should not be to direct others but to create a school culture in which decisions are made collaboratively. Such 'facilitative' leadership exercises power through others, not over them. The basic question is whether or not these two leadership styles are mutually exclusive.
- Developing Instructional Leaders
Although instructional leadership is acknowledged to be a critical skill in educational administration, few principals and superintendents have had in-depth training for that role, especially in a standards-based environment. Current definitions of instructional leadership include much deeper involvement in the 'core technology' of teaching and learning, carry more sophisticated views of professional development, and emphasize the use of data to make decisions, in comparison to the definitions of the 1980s.
- Visionary Leadership
'Vision' is one of the most frequently used buzzwords in the education literature of the 1990s. This digest presents an overview of visionary leadership, which many education experts consider to be a make-or-break task for the school leader. It discusses various definitions of vision, the significance of vision for organizations, the ways in which visions develop, the top-down and bottom-up nature of vision, and the ways in which leaders facilitate vision.
- Ethical Leadership
This digest outlines the ethical responsibilities of school leaders and the dilemmas that they face. It offers the following suggestions for resolving ethical dilemmas: (1) Leaders should have and be willing to act on a definite sense of ethical standards; (2) leaders should examine dilemmas from different perspectives; (3) leaders can reframe ethical issues; and (4) leaders should have the habit of conscious reflection.
- Mistakes Educational Leaders Make
Most administrator training programs focus on what educational leaders should do rather than what they should not do. The digest reviews the types of mistakes leaders tend to make, identifying 15 categories of errors, with most of them arising from poor human-relations skills.
- Communication Skills
This digest provides suggestions for school leaders who want to increase the effectiveness of those interactions. A first step is to recognize that listening is the skill most essential to effective communication. Other skills of effective communicators include asking questions, giving constructive feedback, paraphrasing, checking perceptions, and describing behavior. 'I statements' can be used to request changes in behavior in a nonthreatening way. Tips for improving nonverbal communication and for enhancing interpersonal relationships with colleagues and constituents are also offered.
Inducting School Leaders
Beginning principals are often overwhelmed by their job. Traditionally, they have been left to fend for themselves. This digest examines the challenges faced by new administrators and the steps that districts can take to provide a smooth entry into the principalship. It also describes characteristics of good induction programs.
To help new principals succeed, school districts are capitalizing on senior administrators' expertise by adding mentor programs to the practical training programs for beginning principals. This digest examines the nature of mentorships and discusses how they can prepare principals for the next stage of their careers.
- Five Key Issues in Restructuring
Five key issues can serve to summarize the complexity of the restructuring process and some of the challenges being faced: (1) developing a vision that unites projects; (2) identifying outcomes that will be assessed; (3) obtaining the active support of the community; (4) redefining the role of principals from power-wielders to facilitators; and (5) changing basic organizational practices to better meet the needs of at-risk students.
- Data-Driven School Improvement
When educators study their schools and classes, they seek an answer to an ageless question: Is it good because we've been doing it for a long time, or is it good because we have tangible evidence of its worth? Can data use improve education?
- Creating a Learning Organization
According to some theorists, schools that dedicate themselves to systematic, collaborative problem-solving can continually develop and implement new ideas -- becoming what is called learning organizations. Ways in which schools accomplish this transformation are discussed.
- Leadership for School Culture
School culture can be defined as the historically transmitted patterns of meaning that include the norms, values, beliefs, and myths understood by members of the school community. Researchers have found that healthy and sound school cultures correlate strongly with increased student achievement and motivation, and with teacher productivity and satisfaction. A vision for creating a healthy school culture should be a collaborative activity among teachers, students, parents, staff, and the principal.
- Schools as Communities
A good deal of evidence now suggests that a strong sense of community in schools has benefits for both staff members and students, while providing a necessary foundation for school improvement. This digest identifies the elements of community schools, the effects of school community on staff members and students, the structural and organizational factors of community in schools, and the relationship of community to other improvement activities.
- Collaborative Schools
A growing number of educators are focusing their efforts on improving the work environment of teaching. In place of the typical school's norms and practices that isolate teachers from one another, collaborative schools have norms that encourage teachers and principals to cooperate for school improvement. Such schools are characterized by frequent teacher interaction with respect to teaching methods and problems, frequent observation and constructive criticism of teachers, joint planning and preparation, and peer training and support.
- Shared Decision-Making
Shared decision making is based on a premise that relies on four main assumptions: (1) those closest to the children will make the best decisions concerning the children's education; (2) teachers, parents, and school staff should have influence in policies; (3) those who implement the decisions should have a voice in the decisions; and (4) if those implementing the decision feel a sense of ownership of the decisions, they are more likely to implement the decision effectively. There are advantages and disadvantages to SDM.
- Limits of Shared Decision-Making
Teachers generally report feelings of empowerment and are more likely to support collaborative decisions; however, shared decision-making (SDM) often creates conflict and difficult negotiations among participants. Principals often experience difficulties in changing their leadership roles and finding a balance between showing support and letting go.