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From Leading to Succeeding: The Seven Elements of Effective Leadership in Education (A Change Readiness Assessment Tool for School Initiatives)

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Utilizing the crucial elements of effective leadership—purpose, trust, focus, leverage, feedback, change, and sustainability—education leaders can overcome the many challenges they face in their profession and learn the skills and characteristics they need to succeed. This book synthesizes research from 21st century sources and confronts prevalent leadership myths, while offering guidance on best leadership practices. Use this professional development tool to establish a clear mission and enact vision statements.

 

Benefits

 

  • Learn about the seven elements of leadership and why they are important to building trust between colleagues.
  • Study the best research available on leadership, coming from diverse research methods and perspectives.
  • Gain guidance on how to tell the difference between best and worst practices in leadership.
  • Examine elements to assess whether an organization is ready for change.
  • Explore a model for reflecting on, self-assessing, and synthesizing leadership experiences and research on effective leadership.

 

Contents

 

  1. Purpose
  2. Trust
  3. Focus
  4. Leverage
  5. Feedback
  6. Change
  7. Sustainability

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8 Chapters

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1 Purpose

ePub

This chapter explores the first element of leadership—purpose. Traditional methods of expressing the purpose of an organization often yield weak mission and vision statements that suffer from two fatal flaws. First, they don’t mean anything; and second, even if they did, no one knows what the mission and vision statements say. But all is not lost. Leaders can and must define their purpose, and they do not need to convene a committee to do so.

Even if you already have institutionalized a mission and vision, I would challenge you and every other leader and educator to have a clearer sense of purpose than school and district mission and vision statements typically express. We not only must answer the question, What do we aspire to be and to do? but also, Why are we here, and what makes us come to school every day? Particularly, leaders must ask, What are we passionate about? Defining purpose only in terms of an education mission and vision is cynical in the extreme, especially if we are unwilling to admit that part of it is to create meaningful career opportunities for employees and families who invest a portion of their earnings in taxes that support our communities.

 

2 Trust

ePub

Leaders can be forgiven for many mistakes as long as their colleagues trust them. But a breach of trust, in matters large and small, can devastate the ability of leaders to collaborate effectively with colleagues and execute the plans necessary for success. Leaders must follow a higher standard in terms of both professional and personal relationships. Both come down to the simple maxim of doing what you say you will do. For example, if you promise to give teachers time to learn new standards, create new assessments, review data, and respond to individual student needs, then you cannot consume that time with unnecessary staff meetings or meandering conversations. If you promise to give teachers the opportunity to visit one another’s classrooms but cut the budget for substitute teachers, then you need to be willing to take over some classrooms yourself in order to fulfill your promise.

The same is true of trust in personal relationships. If you make promises to your family about the time you will spend with them on weekends, then you can’t take home a briefcase full of overdue paperwork. A scene in the movie Give ’Em Hell, Harry! (Gallu & Bolte, 1970) brings the audience to its feet. President Truman is writing a letter to his daughter, Margaret, in the Oval Office. After signing the letter and sealing the envelope, he reaches for his wallet to pull out a three-cent postage stamp. We could probably forgive the leader of the free world for using government postage to send a letter to his daughter, but Harry Truman knew that trust was not only about what someone does when the world is watching. It doesn’t matter if it’s three cents or billions of dollars—trust matters.

 

3 Focus

ePub

The element of focus suggests that successful leaders must make conscious choices not only about what they will do but also about what they will not do. These leaders exhibit calendar integrity—that is, they use their time in a way that aligns with their values and priorities. This is worth a personal analysis, and you can complete it within just a few minutes. For a full week, keep a detailed record of how you spend your time. Many apps are available that can help you do this quickly and easily and create a pie chart showing your actual time allocation. Compare the pie chart to your top three priorities. The difference is, almost invariably, astounding. I’ve never heard a superintendent say, “My top priorities are to have meetings about compliance issues, personnel hearings, and board subcommittees,” but a quick look at the calendars of many system leaders suggests that these are their priorities.

This chapter is about focus and fragmentation. My essential argument is that focused leaders help their colleagues perform better and achieve greater levels of student performance, while fragmented leaders are like moths to the flame of every education fad. The chapter concludes with some practical advice on how leaders can weed their education gardens and take precautions against the lure of fragmentation.

 

4 Leverage

ePub

In the 2nd century before the Common Era, Greek mathematician Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world” (The Lever, n.d.). Though physicists have engaged in some entertaining debates about how long that lever would have to be, they agree that Archimedes was right—leverage is powerful. Finding leverage in education systems, however, can be challenging. Some leadership and instructional strategies with the greatest leverage—the greatest result for the least investment of time, energy, and resources—are not very popular. Moreover, when lots of little levers compete for a leader’s attention, the few big levers are lost. The central question you must address as a leader is not just what activities have potential leverage over education results but what few activities have the greatest leverage.

What Works Clearinghouse (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc) is a source of evidence-based interventions in schools from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. The institute rigorously screens various programs and initiatives and more than ten thousand studies in order to narrow the hundreds of programs available. It helps schools focus on what is most effective. Despite these good intentions, however, the institute still provides twenty-two interventions for third-grade reading alone and seven for dropout prevention. It’s nice to have choices, but making good choices is essential. Schools flooded with multitudes of strategies and initiatives aimed at the same objective find it difficult to execute all of them well.

 

5 Feedback

ePub

The previous chapter identified feedback as a particularly high-leverage strategy to improve student achievement. The same is true of feedback that leaders provide to their colleagues. The same rules apply in both cases—effective feedback is FAST—fair, accurate, specific, and timely (Reeves, 2016). This chapter explores how feedback can succeed and how it can be undermined. It is important that leaders not only give effective feedback but devise methods to receive it as well.

Hattie and Yates (2014) identify feedback as “one of the most powerful factors implicated in academic learning and resultant achievement” (p.68). The same is true of teachers and leaders whose professional learning depends not merely on information delivery but on feedback that improves their teaching and leadership. As Kouzes and Posner (2011) suggest:

With clear goals and detailed feedback, people can become self-correcting and can more easily understand their place in the big picture. With feedback, they can also determine what help they need from others and who might be able to benefit from their assistance. . . . When there is no feedback, production will be less efficient and will exact a significant toll in the form of increased levels of stress and anxiety.

 

6 Change

ePub

Change is pervasive in our lives, and education leaders face more than their fair share. National and local policies in the United States move with the political winds and often impose these changes. Between 2008 and 2016, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States have been buffeted by changes in national policies that influenced curriculum, assessment, teacher evaluation, and inevitably, education leadership. Too often, however, external interests demand change and leaders don’t assess whether systems are ready. In this chapter, I provide a simple tool, the Change Readiness Assessment, that can help leaders and everyone else in the system determine the extent to which they are ready for change. Finally, we consider historical claims about systemic change and evaluate them in light of the best research on the subject.

Before you begin work with a group or an entire system that might involve change, consider the simple question, What are the costs and benefits of change, considering the short-term and long-term impacts? The chart in figure 6.1 (page 80) can help educators analyze these costs and benefits.

 

7 Sustainability

ePub

The term sustainability is often associated with care for the environment. When we recycle, compost, and conserve natural resources, we contribute to the sustainability of resources to ensure a planet that is safer for generations to come. Similarly, when education leaders think about sustainability, they take actions today that will serve students and communities long after they have retired.

In their landmark book, Uplifting Leadership: How Organizations, Teams, and Communities Raise Performance, Hargreaves, Boyle, and Harris (2014) identify the key challenge to sustainability:

Sustainability is often an afterthought of organizational change. It is the unread postscript, the parting shot that nobody hears, the ripened fruit that’s already starting to rot before it reaches its market. On the highway of attempted improvement, last-ditch efforts to secure sustainability are often the final truck stop before disappointment and remorse. Sustainability is the thing we think about when all the action has ended, when the good times are over and the money is all but spent. “This has been great,” we say, “but how do we keep it going?” (p. 137)

 

Appendix: Shadow a Student

ePub

This appendix is reprinted with permission from Authentic Education © 2014.

Purpose: This activity helps leaders and other educators (the shadowers) empathize with students (thus, to see the school through the eyes of students rather than themselves). In so doing, the shadowers come away with insights about the intended and unintended effects of school practices and policies on students. They can then share these insights with colleagues in a constructive way.

Process: As a team, educators shadow individual students in their school or district for a full or half day. Shadowers go to each of their assigned student’s classes, stand near the student in the hall between classes, and in general, perceive the school experience through the eyes and ears of the student.

1.Ensure that teachers and administrators at the school in question assent to and are informed about the day of shadowing. Provide this and other Authentic Education handouts describing the day.

 

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