In this era of No Child Left Behind, schools across our nation are faced with unprecedented reform mandates unlike any our educational system has experienced before. Now, more than ever, we as educators are at the core of sweeping change. This change is inevitable and undeniable; it is here to stay. Implementing change is no longer a matter of choice; it is a matter of necessity. Subscribing to these mandates will require that a progressive change agent be at the helm. Such a leader will need to view change as a constant, on-going process, not an event. (These) leaders (will) know that change must both occur and be controlled. They will undertake projects that many will reject or not attempt. (Such) leaders (will) foster a climate of innovation (and) creativity...change will be data-driven, knowledge-driven, research based, and use extensive feedback (Hutchins, 1996).
According to Frank Lunenburg and Allen Ornstein (2004), the school principal has been cited as the most influential person in promoting school reform, change and innovation (p. 375). The principal must be the visible initiator of change and must assume the responsibility of the lead change agent (Empowering School Improvement Teams, 1997). Orchestrating such monumental change will require visionary leaders who possess extraordinary passion, courage, and wisdom, along with a clear, strong sense of purpose driven by a common vision.
As stated in the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards, “A school administrator is an educational leader who facilitates the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community” (1996). School leaders of today need to possess a vast array and network of skills that go well beyond the technical realm. They must possess a working knowledge and appreciation of the system they so tremendously influence.
They will be required to have a strong foundation and repertoire of skills and strategies solidly grounded in theories of knowledge, variability, and psychology. Lunenburg and Ornstein (2004) point out that “understanding the strategies and when to use them is necessary for change agents.” (p. 249). They describe traits that are necessary for selecting and developing the 21st Century principal. In terms of educational leadership, the principal “must set the instructional direction; they must resolve complex problems, be effective communicators, and must work toward developing themselves and others” (p. 147).
Like pieces of a puzzle, these skills, when viewed in isolation, have little impact; yet, each piece is vital in terms of its significance to creating the total picture. It is when we begin to put the pieces together, interlocking them piece by piece, that we begin to acquire a sense of the “big picture.” It is the collective sum of all of the pieces coming together that paints a true portrait of the new challenges change agents currently face.
Throughout the course of this paper, I shall address the individual pieces of the puzzle in an attempt to give the reader a clearer sense of the “big picture” surrounding the principal as educational leader and change agent. At the forefront of these administrative challenges is shaping the culture that surrounds the school community. Lunenburg and Ornstein (2004) not only describe what is meant by culture, but delineate the central role the principal plays in shaping it. They point out that “the culture of an organization does not merely describe what an organization is like; it describes the essence of the organization itself” (p. 94).
They indicate that “the school leader is key to shaping the culture in a school. In doing do, principals communicate their core values, behaviors and expectations in their everyday work and interactions” (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 369). The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) indicate in their Standards for School Leaders (1996) that a “school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of students by understanding, responding to, and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal and cultural context” of the school community. Educational leaders promote student success by nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
However, Lunenburg and Ornstein (2004) point out that it takes the interrelations of the various parts of a school, family, and community working together to create the culture that breeds high quality student learning. Schools alone cannot adequately provide children and youth with the necessary resources and support they need to become successful students, productive workers and responsible citizens in a democratic society (p. 21).
The next vital piece of the puzzle is the change agent’s role in creating an effective school climate. In their discussion of school finance and productivity, Lunenburg and Ornstein (2004) list the elements of effective schools. On page 409 of their book, they state that “effective schools have the following (characteristics): a safe and orderly environment, a clear mission, instructional leadership, a climate of high expectations, high time on task, frequent monitoring of student progress, and positive home-school relations” (p. 356). In order to create these effective schools and districts, they stress an emphasis on intangibles (strong leaders) must be conscious of vision, values, and motivation and understand intuitively the factors involved in the leader-constituent interaction. An essential factor is the capacity to inspire others, to organize members of the organization into a team and to make them feel like winners.
Many effective school leaders also subscribe to tenets of moral and spiritual traits. In his discussion, Why Spirituality, and Why Now? (2002), Paul Houston cites, “We have to have a reverence for the young and we must be at peace with ourselves if we are to lead others. Since we have an impact on others, we must be sensitive to what we do, who we are and how we go about our business (p. 8). He goes on to say, “without a sense of spiritual awareness, leaders lack an understanding of human motives. All of us need a sacred narrative that gives us a sense of a larger purpose (p. 8).
In the discussion of his article, Leadership, We Need It!, Gene Enck, Executive Director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota (2002) shares a thought from Vince Lombardi regarding the spiritual aspect of leadership, “Leadership is based on a spiritual quality, the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow” (p. 3). Thomas Sergiovanni adds to this discussion by describing moral leadership as “behavior built around purpose, ethics, and beliefs that can transform a school from a formal organization to a ‘community' and inspire commitment, loyalty and service. (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 371).
Another essential piece to the administrative puzzle surrounds the technical aspects of understanding how state and federal issues impact our schools. “All three units of government; federal, state, and local, exercise some degree of authority and control over U.S. public education (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 435). They go on to share, “the state has complete authority to provide a public education system” (p. 437). In addition, it is our state and federal governments that guarantee equity for all students through various laws and programs ranging from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to the various Title Programs and Bilingual Education. These agencies have passed the laws to ensure equity for all because “considerable empirical evidence exists which suggests the negative and inequitable treatment of students, particularly those of color, in typical public schools. Differential levels of success in schools distributed along race and social-class lines continue to be the most pernicious and prevailing dilemma of schooling (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 25).
Financing for our schools is provided by a variety of funding methods from both the federal and state levels. Effective leaders must understand where funding for our schools comes from, along with the rules governing how the funding can and should be allocated. Closely linked is how these mandates impact our local school boards. In a declaration for local school board members, Gene Enck once again stresses that they must lead their communities for better public education. He states, “You are the ‘connection’ that cannot be provided by anyone else. You are provided for in the South Dakota Constitution to lead and decide for your local community what the quantity and quality of education will be.
Your partner through the Constitution is the Legislature” (Leadership - We Need It!, p. 2). Concomitantly, it is the policies handed down by these local school boards that guide the Central Office personnel, and more specifically the Superintendent, in their day-to-day operations. Another integral piece of our administrative picture focuses on skills principals must possess in order to effectively lead those who are closest to the students the staff members. Effective instructional leaders guide their staff members toward exploration and application of widely accepted learning theories. One valuable tool an administrator can utilize with staff is the concept of W.
Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management. It is based upon the assumption that “people want to do their best and that it is management’s job to enable them to do so by constantly improving the system in which they work (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 57). Deming’s philosophy provides a blue print for integrating many positive developments in education, such as team teaching, site-based management, cooperative learning, and outcomes-based education (p. 59). His concepts have provided an excellent framework for school transformation using his fourteen principles. His fifth principle, “Improve Constantly and Forever Every Activity in the Company, to Improve Quality and Productivity” provides the philosophical basis for administrators and teachers to address the individual learning differences of all students, including those with special needs.
The authors explain how this fifth principle applies the focus of improvement efforts in education under Deming’s approach would be on teaching and learning processes. Based on the latest research findings, the best strategies would be attempted, evaluated, and refined as needed. And, consistent with learning style theories and Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences, educators would redesign the system to provide for a whole broad range of people handicapped, learning-disabled, at risk, special needs students and find ways to make them all successful in school. (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2004, p.p. 59-60).
Later, in chapter ten, Lunenburg and Ornstein provide an overview of the foremost learning theories and principles. They describe the major theories of learning, and then discuss three classic schools of thought: Behaviorism, Cognition, and Humanistic. Their overview “helps define, explain, and provide a yardstick for effective teaching and learning for all students” (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2004, p. 342).
Effective educational leaders possess the ability to inspire their staff members to live up to the new challenges that face our children as we step up onto the threshold of the 21st Century. They recognize those on their team who are willing to “go the extra mile” in terms of meeting the needs and challenges of all students. Most seasoned school leaders recognize the vital importance the strategic planning process plays in bringing about change; they recognize that a strategic plan is crucial in order to provide a clear sense of focus and direction for staff. “Strategic planning is a process for determining and creating the best possible future for an organization” (Introduction to School Administration, Fall, 2003, Dr. Tim Creal, Professor).
Inspiring motivation is another skill effective leaders must have. “Outstanding schools require leaders who have the ability to motivate people to maximize their performance, to grow professionally, and to change. (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p.114). Motivation, as defined in a handout from the Introduction to School Administration class, is a “hypothetical internal process that energizes and directs behavior. It is about how we decide to do something; it is about feeling in control of what we do and the desire to achieve” (BNA Incorporated, 1969). This handout goes on to describe that there are two types: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. According to the author of this handout, intrinsic motivation is what creates the greatest movement in behaviors. Supervisors cannot create intrinsic motivation, but must create the environment or atmosphere that fosters intrinsic motivation.
According to Frederick Herzberg in his article, One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? “the only way to motivate the employee is to give him challenging work in which he can assume responsibility”(Harvard Business Review, 1968). In another discussion from a different source, Herzberg’s Two Factor Motivation Theory is described in terms of “Hygiene Factors” which are dissatisfiers, and “Growth Factors” that translate into the motivators or satisfiers. He stipulates, we (as organizational leaders), must be aware of which factors and how these factors affect each individual. We must determine which factors have an effect on the individual and provide leadership to that person in such a way that satisfies their needs. If we fail to do so, we are likely faced with the possibility that a person will be dissatisfied which will lead to absenteeism, hostility, indifference, suspicion, and poor work quality (Lunenburg & Ornstein, pp. 115-117).
In order to maximize motivation, (leaders) must treat people as individuals. Some people need closer supervision than others; and some people do not need much supervision at all. Motivation can be increased through facilitative supervision” (30 Ways to Motivate). Perhaps a better way to explain the concept of motivation would be through the tenets of the Participatory Management Model that Lunenburg and Ornstein describe in their book. “Participatory Management stresses the importance of motivating employees and building an organization for that purpose. The organization is structured to satisfy employee’s need which will in turn result in higher worker productivity (pp. 50-51).
Effective change agents “must help individuals see the integrity, significance and relevance of their work in terms of organizational output…the significance of work and the consequent intrinsic satisfaction may well be the most important determinants of work motivation” (30 Ways to Motivate, a class handout provided by Dr. Tim Creal. Introduction to School Administration, Fall, 2003). Another significant piece of the administrative puzzle is the type of leadership style an effective leader utilizes with his or her subordinates on a day-to-day basis. Types of leadership styles are discussed in depth in chapter five of the Educational Administration textbook.
An approach that integrates many of the different styles discussed within the chapter is Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard’s situational leadership theory, “(it) identifies two key leadership behaviors: task behavior and relationship behavior” (Lunenburg and Orstein, p. 169). According to Dr. Tim Creal, Professor at South Dakota State University, “this style gives leaders a theoretical basis to operate from which allows them to deal with individual differences. Leaders need to deal with personnel differently throughout the day (Fall, 2003).
He explained that a leader’s behavior should be determined by an employee’s strengths, competence and desire. Depending upon where that employee falls on a continuum or grid in terms of the above mentioned traits, the leader’s style could be directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating. The key to the success of situational leadership theory is matching leadership styles to the appropriate people and situations (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 171). Research on Situational Leadership Theory indicates managers who correctly apply the Hersey-Blanchard theory got better performance from their subordinates (p. 171).
Finally, the last piece of our administrative puzzle is about “valuing one’s greatest organizational assets - people (Dyer, p. 30). An inspirational quote that exemplifies this philosophy states, The nature of the relationships among adults who inhabit a school has more to do with the school’s quality and character and with the accomplishments of its pupils than any other factor (Barth, 1984).
In order to acknowledge the sweeping changes brought about by the federal legislation from the No Child Left Behind Act, now, more than ever, our schools need visionary, influential, and effective leaders who motivate and inspire their employees to live up to the new challenges that face our educational system. School leaders of the 21st Century must possess a vast array and network of skills. They must possess knowledge and appreciation of the educational system, have a strong foundation and diverse repertoire of skills and strategies which are theoretically-based, and must develop and maintain trusting, positive and supportive relationships with all of their employees.
Their traits, skills, behaviors, and various situational factors interacting together, along with a common vision and supportive learning community may ultimately determine a leader’s effectiveness (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 204). In order to be an effective leader, all of these traits, skills, behaviors and situational factors must be intricately woven together, just like a puzzle, in order to understand and appreciate the “big picture” in terms of viewing principals as educational leaders and change agents.
Finally, the importance of developing interpersonal relationships with employees is perhaps one of the most important characteristics a principal can possess because, “increased effectiveness in interpersonal relations in schools should help reduce resistance to change efforts proposed by school administrators” (Lunenburg & Ornstein, p. 257).
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