What is educational leadership? (Opinion)

Some believe that leaders are born. Whether this is true or not, in our profession, becoming a school leader most often begins in the classroom. Teachers feel the call to make a bigger difference or to take on a different role. They take the first step by entering graduate programs. These programs, formerly known as “Educational Administration”, have in recent years become “Educational Leadership” programs. But, all too often, the difference in the names did not necessarily change the content of the lessons. Schools will always need good managers, but don’t we all know that they increasingly benefit from educational leaders? This difference is more than just a name.

It is important to know how to manage parts of the organization. How to budget, how to handle a disciplinary issue with students, faculty and staff, how to handle legal issues, how to negotiate and oversee contracts, how to deal with unions, schedules, transportation, food services. .. these are all essential. But they are not enough. Keeping the current system functioning well means becoming the best 20e school of the century possible. Leaders will help create the best 21st schools of the century. The management of the organization is fundamentally essential. Moving from the classroom to a leadership role changes a person’s perspective.

How do we define educational leadership? And is it different from other leaders? Joshua Rothman, in his excellent article of February 29e from NewYorker.com, discusses our cultural fascination with leadership and suggests that the emergence of leaders depends on a crisis. He points to two of our presidential candidates, Trump and Sanders, who attempt to portray current issues as urgent and fraught with crisis in order to make us see us as the emerging “strong and electrifying leader”. It is the crisis that makes the leader recognizable to us.

Many of today’s challenges are too complex to yield to the mere exercise of leadership. Even so, we are inclined to see the problems of the present in terms of crises and leaders. “Leadership crises are the order of the day at the turn of the 21st century,” writes Elizabeth Samet, in the introduction to “Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers” (Norton). “If we live in a world of crisis,” she continues, “we also live in a world that romanticizes crisis – which finds fodder in it for an addiction to the twenty-four hour news cycle, to multiple news feeds. information and constant stimulation ”(Rothman).

Based on Rothman’s thesis, society’s fascination with the conclusion that schools are failing (the crisis) provides an opportunity for educators to come forward and prove themselves to be superheroes (leaders). We crave leaders to solve our problems, be right or be blamed, and take responsibility for almost everything. We want to romanticize them as superhumans. Rothman goes on to say:

Elizabeth Samet believes that our growing reliance on the narrative of the crisis has gone hand in hand with a growing reverence for leadership – a reverence that makes us vulnerable to “false prophets, flawless operators, gangsters and demagogues” who say they can. to save. She quotes John Adams, who suggested in a letter to a friend that there was something both undemocratic and reckless about the lionization of leadership. The country will not improve, Adams wrote, until the people begin to “see themselves as the source of power.”

Exactly! Schools today need leadership to exist throughout the organization. Principals today know all too well that they cannot lead alone. Dependence on leadership at all levels in an evolving organization also requires leaders who invest in others and make room for all leadership to emerge. Additionally, given the relationship between principals and their communities, principals know all too well how quickly one can fall from superhero status. Rothman’s position on this:

… because our desire for a cohesive worldview is bottomless, our thirst for leadership is also insatiable. Leaders make the world more sane, but never sane enough. Should our leaders keep this in mind? Do we want them to lead with a sense of overwhelmed irony, melancholy self-awareness? When we are immersed in the romanticism of leadership, we admire leaders who radiate authenticity and authority; we respect and value our “real” leaders.

At the end
School leaders have roles that confer power and influence, but which require vulnerability, reflection and authenticity. At the same time, true leaders respect the ability to manage but do not equate these functions with leadership. Based on society’s fascination with leadership and the need for school leaders to demonstrate all of the complex personal qualities just listed, it makes sense that programs that prepare teachers to be leaders school must infuse the teaching of managerial responsibilities with other leaders. much more personal responsibilities.

This distinction is not new. Warren Bennis wrote about this years ago in Become a leader. Every now and then, it’s good to revisit your perspective and consider where we are, who we’re developing and for what functions. It might also be a good time to remember another way he viewed leadership. Competence, virtue and vision must be in perfect balance for a leader to motivate and persuade people to share a vision. Without that balance, Bennis wrote:

Skill or knowledge without virtue or vision breeds technocrats. Virtue, without vision or knowledge, breeds ideologues. Vision, without virtue or knowledge, breeds demagogues (p. 155).

And so we aspire to balance in skill, virtue, and vision. None of the imbalanced options are good for schools.

Bennis, W (2009). Become a leader. Philadelphia: Basic Books

Illustration courtesy of Pixabay

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Janice G. Ball