Journal of Secondary Alternate Education
Column: Lukiv's "Place" for Educators to Think About Teaching
Previous column: http://journalsecondaryalternateeducation.20m.com/blank_11.htmlLeadership Style (published previously in: The English Teachers' Online Network of South Africa (South Africa), 2002; and The Journal of Secondary Alternate Education (Print version: Volume 2, Issue 3, 2003).
[Editorial Note: Are you an English department head, or do you have other administrative duties? Are you pursuing a career as a principal? Do you feel that teachers are more than simply teachers, but that they are also leaders in the classroom? If your answer is "yes" to any of these questions, then I've written this article for you.]
A leader, more specifically, a Great Leader, stands before those he or she leads as a guide. A model. An exemplar. As the head of a chain he or she pulls along the attached rings, but doesn't push. Pushing upsets the straight chain, creating assorted twists that translate into the misled rather than the led.
A Great Leader, a springboard for co-operation, consensus, and reasonable compromises, a core of gravity that draws input, suggestions, and team effort, motivates through example, not coercion. More than a problem-solver, this leader models problem-solving in the spirit of co-operation. He or she formulates objectives, plans, and reasonable deadlines. As a facilitator, this leader provides the materials the plan requires, and provides such quickly, I might add.
This facilitator fosters trust in meetings. At the secondary alternate school where I teach (McNaughton Centre, Quesnel, BC), one context for this article, that means fostering trust in meetings involving any combination of student, parent, youth care worker, teacher, administrator, social worker, police officer, and probation officer. This facilitator tactfully roots out belittling and unnecessary criticism, while promoting empathy, compassion, understanding, discernment, and sound judgement.
A Great Leader becomes the metaphor for vigour and action. Although this person focuses on the positive, he or she deals, or tries to deal, with problems rather than avoiding them or pretending they don't exist, therein personifying vigour and action. Within reason, this leader deals with staff members' problems, needs, and circumstances. They don't have to wait wait wait either, because this leader makes time for them. Workers feel themselves validated. A sense of belonging, of community, infuses them with warmth. The seeds of integrity and energy have been sown.
This leader advertises what works, and what is working, using language that reaches, rather than using language that, lost in mega-syllables, alienates or confuses. He or she refers to research, with its theoretical basis, that directs, validates, and inspires staff. The implication: exellence is wonderful. And possible. And present. A Great Leader never assumes any staff member's mediocrity = that person's excellence. A Great Leader lives in a warm sea of Great Expectations, and he or she invites others to dive in and enjoy the water. Because of his or her model of honesty, courtesy, diligence, respect, integrity, compassion, empathy, kindness, and responsibility, generally they feel at home, like fish, in this sea.
Not surprisingly, this leader's efforts to create team efforts often end in satisfaction and good and tangible products. He or she provides the tools of technology, if needed, thereby keeping teams abreast of societal change and progress. All the while he or she promotes--models--desirable qualities of the business world, qualities such as self-discipline, reliability, perseverance, teamwork, accepting responsibility, and respecting others.
When snags, or problems, surface, a Great Leader looks for symptoms. He or she encourages, even empowers, staff members to problem solve at the causal level, and to exercise their own judgement and creativity. The community spirit of teamwork this leader inspires turns problems into "our" problems and solutions into "our" solutions. Problems are evaluated down at the grassroots, down at "our" grassroots.
By the way, even this leader gets evaluated. He or she invites, actually solicits, evaluation from those he or she works with. Just as this leader has the courage to tactfully criticize when necessary, perhaps with the sandwich-model of commend first, counsel next, then commend again, he or she has the fortitude to accept criticism graciously. Naturally this leader's high-profile, interactive, in-the-trenches style opens up his or her imperfections. His or her style allows staff to see "the person," to relate to "the person."
Imperfections, simply put, can lead to necessary criticism. This leader, used to one-to-one interaction, swallows the criticism and says thank you too. In short, he or she wants to grow professionally, and wants the staff to grow likewise. Therefore, staff professional development ranks high as a priority. That development might take many paths, depending on the holistic needs of staff members. For example, do some staff members need more training in a particular problem-solving skill, or do they need more stress management skills? Perhaps better problem-solving skills will produce better stress management.
A Great Leader, then, shows genuine interest in those he or she leads. For that reason, sometimes the rule book ends up in the garbage when rules conflict with relevant, important, even pivotal staff-needs. This is a tricky thing, but the high-profile leader knows when to hide in the shade, and knows when to stand at the podium to defend his or her team.
This style promotes a certain security, and a certain peace, within the workplace, the community workplace, where competition, actually a four-letter word (Lukiv, 2001a), gives way to intrinsic motivation based on the workers' opportunity for competence, autonomy, and variety. This recipe for creativity begets endless energy for brainstorming, for lateral thinking, for imagination, for creative problem solving that could include reasonable risk taking.
This sort of problem solving circumvents tunnel vision on staff, brings factions into the arena of reason and reasonableness, opening up the world of alternatives. The Great Leader, aware of possible faction thinking or other barracudas in his or her warm sea, exercises professional judo (Lukiv, 2001b), meaning he or she foresees possible problems to problem solving and prepares a personal or professional plan of survival to implement when the barracudas arrive. Call this the leader's metacognitive wisdom.
A Great Leader's metacognition provides him or her with the foresight to steer the staff's ship around the bandwagons (Lukiv, 2001b) and through the waters of reason and loyalty and all other desirable humanistic qualities, without lording it over others, without impersonality or distance. A Great Leader, a great guide and first link in a chain that contains many or few other links, is great, one might say, because of his or her strength of character and humility.
Bibliography and References
- Abernethy, P. E., & Serfass, R. W. (1992, November). One district's quality improvement story. Education Leadership, 14-17.
- Balster, L. L. (1992). Transformational leadership. Eric Digests, 72, 14 paragraphs.
- Chrislip, D. D., & Larson, C. E. (1994). Collaborative leadership: how citizens and civic leaders can make a difference. San Francisco, California, USA: Jossey-Bass.
- Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 habits of highly successful people. New York, New York, USA: Simon & Schuster/Fireside.
- Daino, C. (1999). Captain Edward John Smith. Retrieved June 7, 2001 from The Titanic Heroes Web site: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/theatre/7937/smith2.html
- Glickman, C. (1981). Developmental supervision: Alternative practices for helping teachers improve instruction. Alexandria, Virginia, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. H. (1988). Management of organizational behavior: utilizing human resources (5th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA: Simon & Schuster/ Prentice-Hall.
- Holt, M. (1993, January). The educational consequences of W. Edwards Deming. Phi Delta Kappan, 382-388.
- Lukiv, D. (2001a). Awards day, pricipal's roll, and honour roll. The English Teachers' Online Network of South Africa. Available at: http://www.reocities.com/CollegePark/Campus/2159/art22.htm
- Lukiv, D. (2001b). The master teacher. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: y press and BCTF Lesson aids. Available online at: http://www.danlukivnnn.20m.com/index.html
- New world translation of the Holy scriptures. (1984). Brooklyn, New York, USA: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.