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According to Wikipedia, leadership has been described as “a process of social influence or persuasion by which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Studies of leadership have produced theories involving traits, situational interaction, function, behavior, power, vision, values, charisma, and intelligence, among others. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership). There are various leadership theories that have been created that encompass how a leader relates to others within and outside of the educational organization. There a six that were specifically proposed by Martin, Wright, and Danzig (2003) that are appropriate when describing educational leaders.
They are Directive, Participative, Collaborative, Coaching, Affiliative, and Laissez-Faire. A leader can possess all of these styles depending on the current situation. For example, a leader can use a Directive Approach when dealing with low assessment scores especially when being pressured from his or her superiors, when deadlines are not being met, or when a teacher or staff has neglected their duties. But also display a Participative or Collaborative style by taking input from others.
The leadership style that is displayed can have a negative and positive influence on the school community and the organization. It is very important to understand the styles indivially and in detail to know which ones are more and less effective in your environment. The school where I currently work just received a new principal, but prior to her there was Principal R, who had inherited her position as the leader because her entire career was built at the school. She started off her teaching career there, three years later was advanced to Reading Coach, and then was assigned as Vice Principal. The Superintendent, formal principal, and others felt that she was the best fit for the job because of her years spent there and her experience as Vice Principal. Prior to her receiving the role of prinicpal, we were excelling in reading, writing, and mathematics.
The principal prior to Principal R had moved us from a failing grade of an “F” to an excelling grade of an “A”. Principal R indeed knew the ends and outs of the school because she was trained and mentored by our previous principal, Principal P. Not knowing that once the school was completely turned over to Principal R, we will be on a descending trip to failure. Principal R took a Directive approach, very similar to the Autocratic Leadership Style. By her having experience, she insisted on doing it all herself even though she had an administration team which consisted of a vice principal, reading and math coach, and an ESE liaison. She felt that the ultimate decision in any situation should be hers regardless of whom or what it affected. Research states, that Autocratic Leaders often maintain authority by force, intimidations, threats, rewards, punishment, or position (http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1122.aspx). If you challenged Principal R in any way, regardless of how simple or how large the issue may have been your evaluation would be affected. Principal R used this role for her own personal gains.
Principal R had built many personal relationships prior to her taking on the leadership role, those relationships were soon affected when she became principal. Favoritism became a common word around the school. Things that we thought we would never get away with, was done often by the people in Principal R’s circle. This leadership style brought a negative image to the school. The morale went down and teacher’s lost their drive for teaching. Our school grade went from an “A” to a “C”, then to a “B” to an “F”. Principal R was transferred to another school where we hope her style would change for the benefit of the vision of the school. While under the leader of Principal R, we also had Vice Principal E, who was a very sweet person with more than 16 years of experience in the education field. Our school was labeled for having struggling readers which put more accountability upon the teachers. Regardless of what issues the students had years prior or even home structure that affected their abilities to read, we were held accountable for them if they were below average or even failing.
Vice Principal E shared many strategies with us that were very beneficial to our students. Her education specialty was ESE and autism; we were able to use those same strategies to assist our students. Vice Principal E displayed a Coaching Leadership style also very similar to an Instructional Leadership style. Her main concern was teaching and learning and assist us in relaying information in a way that the students comprehended. Instructional leadership focuses on modeling, monitoring, professional dialogue and discussion (Bush, 2002). She mentored us on what routes we should use to assist our students. She increased our confidence and also our test scores. When the results came in and we seen how much gains our grade level had shown, Vice Principal E took no credit, even though it was all because of her. She remained in the mentor role and assisted us in anything we may have needed.
Vice Principal E was surplused to another school due to budget issues and was missed dearly when she departed. We are currently under the leadership of Principal K, which is the true reason why I am pursing my master’s degree. Principal K is a new principal, but has 12 years experience as a vice principal in secondary education. Principal K is a true leader that models and motivates others to accomplish goals, while at the same time encouraging others to work toward their own professional goals. Principal K, came ready to work but with little knowledge of what direction to start. Principal K created groups of those teachers and staff, whom prior had experience at the school to assist her with understanding the vision and desegregating the data.
Once Principal K understood the vision and the direction of where the school should be headed, she quickly took the Collaborative approach, also known as the Democratic Leadership style. She involved the faculty, staff, and stakeholders in the decision making process. Even though the final decision would be ultimately made by Principal K, she allowed everyone to be a part of the process. She allowed them to have the sense of belonging of being a part of the team. She encourages participation, values our opinions, group discussions, and motivates us to become leaders as well. Principal K’s leadership style provides direction and guidance.
She states often that even though her title is principal her job description is to work for us and whatever we need to give the students a quality education, she will make sure it is provided. Overall, leadership styles is the manner and approach of providing direction, creating visions, implementing and acting on plans, and motivating people to excel beyond their comfort zone. Leaders styles will vary based on situations. A leader does not strictly lean toward one style, however one may seem to be dominate over another, but it all depends on the situation at hand. My goal is to use the styles that are most effective and meant to strengthen the performance of the teacher, staff and students and also the styles that will bring improvement on student achievement.
http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1122.aspx http://www.leadership-with-you.com/directive-leadership.html Bush, Tony 2003. Theories of Educational Management, 3rd edn. London: Sage.