Ineffective leadership issue in schools
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
- John Quincy Adams
It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.
- Adlai Stevenson
The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.- Kenneth Blanchard
Before going straight away to start discussion on the topic, let us first have a glance at what actually leadership means, and then what is effective and what is ineffective leadership. Then we shall try to highlight this issue in schools context and suggest few remedies to address it.
There is a realization that it is effective leadership that can help organizations and institutions make the critical transition from intention to implementation and policy to practice.
The traditional definition of leadership implies authorized ‘visible supervision’ or oversight. But today new concepts of leadership have emerged and they have totally changed the way institutions and organizations are lead.
Authentic leaders are ordinary people able to draw on extraordinary talents. Most people view leaders as being ‘born’ rather than ‘trained’ and view leadership as an innate quality that is difficult to replicate or assume. However it is now clear that Leaders are made i.e. Leadership traits can be learnt, adapted and put to good use. Almost all of us have natural leadership skills & attributes but may not realise it and might never have reflect on these.
To be able to lead people there are certain things a leader must “be”, “know” and “do.” Not many of these come naturally but are achieved through continual study, practice & reflection. Good leaders don’t just rest on their achievements but constantly study and work to improve their leadership skills.
Leaders are different from managers although managers can utilise some of the leadership skills. Certain positions of authority may make people able to ‘boss’ other people around but this doesn’t make them a leader. A leader is a person who can influence others to accomplish an objective and directs an organisation in a way that is cohesive and coherent.
Bass, B (1990) gives three basic theories of how people become leaders:
Trait Theory: Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles.
Great Events Theory: A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person.
Transformational Leadership Theory: People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is the most widely accepted theory today.
Leadership studies indicate that good leaders are not ‘born’; they ‘grow’. Individuals with desire and willpower develop themselves as effective leaders through a constant process of self-study, dedication, training and experience.
A good Leader can essentially have several of the following traits:
Be self aware- knowing your own strengths and limitations but continually improve by self-study, reflection, formal classes and interaction
Be technically proficient: As a good leader you need to know your job and the familiarity of the employees’ or the followers’ tasks
Be visionary: A good leader can see beyond the bumps in the road at the horizon.
Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions: when things go wrong don’t blame others. Seek corrective action: as the Japanese saying goes: ‘Fix the problem not the blame’
Develop others as well as the organisation to their full capacity
Make good & timely decisions: using problem solving, decision making & planning tools
Sustain people and their culture in an ethical manner
Communicate well: keep them informed, encourage two way communications.
Inspire by setting a good example: ‘We must become the change we want to see’ – should be his motto
Lead by collaborative decision making
If we categorise what the leaders must be, know and do to be effective we may be able to unpick some of the attributes of a good leader:
Loyal, Selfless, Responsible, Competent, Committed, Courageous, Imaginative, Honest
Yourself (self-awareness, strengths and learning needs)
Your organization (mission statements, organizational culture, where to go for help)
Human nature (motivating factors, emotional needs, people)
Factors of leadership (follower, leader, communication, situation)
Provide direction: goal setting, problem solving, decision making, planning
Implement: communicate, co-ordinate, supervise, evaluate
Motivate & Influence: train, coach, counsel, mentour, develop
When people are asked to define the ideal leader, many tend to emphasize traits such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision. These are the qualities traditionally associated with leadership. There is little doubt about such skills being necessary. Studies, however, indicate that they are insufficient for effective leadership. Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skill is a minimum requirement for success, research indicates that Emotional Intelligence (EI) may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate. That’s why EQ (Emotional Quotient) is considered more important than IQ (Intelligent Quotient) for leadership.
Leadership research tells us that the lack of interpersonal skills and the inability to adapt are the two principal derailment factors in careers. Today, there is a growing body of knowledge that clearly shows that proper understanding and use of emotions can be critical in helping us become more effective leaders and better communicators. Without EI, persons can have first-class training, incisive minds, and endless supply of good ideas, but they still won’t be great leaders.
We are aware that analytical, quantitative and verbal abilities are measured through conventional IQ tests. Similarly there are tests to measure EQ (Emotional Quotient). Research indicates that high EQ accounts for over 90% of the difference between ineffective leaders and effective leadership performance. Effective leadership improves unit performance and service delivery.
An understanding of these qualities we all may possess in varying levels would help us to reflect and self evaluate our successes and failures in leading others and to improve on our leadership potential in influencing others.
In schools, as any where else, effective and purposeful leadership is a must. Traditionally, Formal planning systems, centralized decision making processes, hierarchical organizational structures, procedures and rules helped maintain stability in the levels of performance in organization and institutions but now things have under gone a change and a complete revamping of the traditional leadership arsenal has become necessary.
The leadership in our schools is ineffective because the traditional tools that are utilized cannot meet the challenge of change that confronts our schools today. For instance a school leader cannot take an initiative on his/her own because of the shackles of the hierarchical organizational structure, rules and hectic procedures etc.Thus a school leader can not meet the challenge of change that is imminent and which is knocking at the door of his/her institute. The traditional tools provide little or no guidance on how to meet the challenges of increasing demands for responsiveness to external environment, continuous adaptation and giving people of the institute a sense of direction and confidence in the face of all the turbulence. In our schools leadership proves ineffective because there exists a well-defined line between the followers and leaders which does not allow both to come close to each other. There is a lack of general consensus among the staff and decisions making are largely authoritarian. We always see opposition to teachers and senior managerial staff initiative. In the schools we don’t find the philosophy of distributed leadership. Schools leaders have failed to inculcate among the staff that the school belong to them and that its growth and development is their own development and growth.
We don’t see any opportunities for the emergence of teacher leadership in our schools. This is simply because teacher leadership emerges where the leader of the school is itself a dynamic and open minded person who never mind the emergence of others as leaders.
Teacher leadership has never been facilitated, supported and enhanced within the schools.
With an inspiring leadership even those staff members who are reluctant to undertake nay extra responsibilities merrily agree to take them. But we don’t have inspiring leadership in our schools and hence the disastrous results. Normally in our schools there is always a trust deficit between the leader and the followers which adversely affect the growth of collaboration.
There is also a threat of globalization which is rendering our present school leadership ineffective. The present leadership needs new capacities to exploit new opportunities and to deal effectively with new threats that it brings along. With greater decentralization of national policies, there is increasing fragmentation of policy responsibilities. This poses major challenges of policy co-ordination, accountability and coherence and thus making the task of the school leaders double fold. With development of information and communication technologies at such a rapid pace, it is hard for traditional school leaders to cope with new problems in a swift, transparent and flexible manner.
It is effective leadership that can address these challenges. Thus, leadership prepares organizations for change and helps facilitate the process of transition to achieve intended goals.
The good news is that leadership can be learned and improved at any age. But the specific leadership competencies don’t automatically come through life experience. Leaders who are motivated to improve their skills can do so if they are given the Right information, Guidance and Support. If leaders cultivate these resources and practice continually, they can develop specific leadership skills – skills that will last for years.
Leadership is not status or position. It is all about achievement of the right results. Leaders are doers, who take responsibility and make a difference.
When we go to lead some where, we may see cynicism and negativity abound. It is easy to be a follower, to criticize and express fears and doubts -criticism is easy, creation is difficult as the saying goes- but it takes a lot of courage to inspire and to lead.
§ Adopt a leadership model
§ Be proactive, achievement oriented and willing to take risks.
§ Be open to change and new information, and keep up-to-date with important developments in your field, function or sector.
§ Build a shared vision with others.
§ Be willing to speak out on issues and champion change even when your view is unpopular.
§ Try to recover quickly from setbacks.
§ Facilitate win-win situations
§ Decide on who will receive leadership development
§ Involve senior as well as budding leaders in development process
§ Define the results expected from leaders and link these to the larger strategy
§ Use powerful learning and training methods to accelerate development
§ Create a culture of feed back
§ Create a culture of collaboration between the staff and the leader and among the staff themselves
§ Pay attention to staffing issues and concerns
§ Empower those at operational levels to make decisions and solve problems
§ Encourage open exchange of ideas with the staff and don’t be vague or indirect in your communication.
§ Focus your time and energy on the most important priorities
§ Make development a long term process, and not just an event.
§ Be tactful, compassionate and sensitive and treat staff/ stakeholders with respect.
§ Facilitate an open exchange of ideas and fostering atmosphere of free and frank communication.
Bass, Bernard (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 18, Issue 3, Winter, 1990, 19-31.
Leadership Development in the Public Sector, Corporate Leadership Council, 2001