Phil Friar Sabbatical Report 2014 - Leadership Theory and Practice in a Highly Demanding Environment


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   Friar.P. Leadership theory and effective practice . Leadership Theory and Practice in a Highly Demanding and Changing Educational Environment   Author Phil Friar Principal, Papamoa Primary School Term 3 2014 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Phil Friar, Principal, Papamoa Primary School, Tauranga 3118, NZ E-mail: Background I believe school leadership is changing and it is imperative that I am able to reflect on these changes and adapt my leadership to suit, if I am to lead effectively. Along with the focus for excellence in learning and teaching (performativity), there are increasing demands for accountability. With a laudable focus on ‘no child left behind’, current neo -liberal education  policy has brought further demands for higher levels of managerialism and marketisation, while extending performativity and accountability. These demands have created a vastly different educational leadership platform, together with significant new challenges. Degenhardt and Duignan (2010) note … “the struggle to discover and articulate forms of leadership appropriate for the demands of the 21st century” (p. 130). I am becoming more and more aware that school leaders, at the present time, must be adept in different styles of leadership, at different stages of the process of change. Alvy and Robbins (2010) give imperative to this, stating that … “the work of school leaders has become so incredibly complex that no one person can address the demands of the role” (p. 46). As a long serving principal of a large urban primary school, it is timely for me to investigate leadership theory and styles best suited to establish and grow a vibrant learning community that supports and embraces this change. It is, therefore, timely for me to grow my understanding of current pedagogy and practice in and around leadership. Methodology  a.   Research scholarly and seminal literature on leadership styles and practice, to best meet the current demands of leading a school in today’s highly demanding educational climate;  1 Friar.P. Leadership theory and effective practice .  b.   Investigate a specific leadership strategy / style best suited to meet the demands of leading a school in an environment of continual change; c.   Carry out a situational and personal analysis of leadership within my educational context. d.   Identify future foci / next steps. Abstract Technological advancement and the seemingly ever increasing neo-liberal political manoeuvring, together with the resulting performativity and environmental pressures, suggest an imperative for educational leaders to review their leadership practice. Effective organisational structures and processes that support and grow teaching and learning in the  present, the knowable mid-term and the ‘envisaged future’ , are essential. Caldwell (2006) elicits urgency in embracing educational leadership practice for a hitherto unexperienced future in the introduction to the final chapter of his book, ‘Re -imagining Educational Leadership’: “What will education be like 40 years from now? I can’t tell you.  Nobody can. But I can tell you that it must be totally different because if it is the same as it is today, we’re dead. Current approaches will be irrelevant, marginalised, the world will be different. You may want it to  be the same, but it can’t be the same” (p.183).   Stoll, Fink and Earl (2003) refer to ‘The Rollercoaster Ride of Change’ and  posit that “Educators can’t hide their heads in the hope that ‘this too will pass’. They have a choice  to make  –   wait until directed to change by others, or take charge of change and attempt to influence the future of schools and schooling” (p.2). While the choice to ‘take charge’ remains with each educational leader, the importance of doing so is clearly apparent. This paper does not seek to structure the actions that need to  be taken, since these actions must suit each organisation’s composition, culture , environment and envisioned future. What is hoped is that this paper highlights an urgency to engage in reflective practice that will ensure existing leadership structures are critiqued against the needs of schools today (and the immediate future), so that we meet the demands of the current educational climate and the future needs of tomorrow’s leaders   − our students.  2 Friar.P. Leadership theory and effective practice . Leadership Styles: A brief overview Personal revelation lies in what leadership is about for the individual. Ritchie and Deakin Crick (2007) aptly encapsulate this for me, when they identify: “Leadership is about vision, often through co-constructing a view of a preferred future in collaboration with others and  building on shared values. It is therefore about bringing about change for improvement.” (p.38). Ritchie et al (2007, p. 38) go on to postulate that ‘co -constructing a view ’ requires  the  building of relational trust and respect that empowers transformation, enhances practice, reflection and an aspiration for continual improvement. Personal reflection and seminal literature on leadership practice suggest veritable arrays of experience engendered situational knowledge and this requires a plethora of ‘leadership styles’ . The situational and transitional nature of leadership style is of the utmost significance. Bush and Glover (2003), cited in Ritchie and Deakin Crick (2007, p. 38-39),  provide a typology of leadership styles:    Instructional: That which impacts student learning.    Transformational: Envisioning and building a new future.    Moral: Values based ethical leadership.    Participative: Collaborative and inclusive of the ‘team’ .    Managerial: Organisational leadership.    Post Modern: Consideration for all stakeholder perspectives and any inherent diversity.    Interpersonal: Relational leadership.    Contingent: Situational, adaptive leadership. Other frameworks for leadership, cited in Ritchie and Deakin Crick (2007), were by Hay McBer (NAHT 2001: 11) and presented as authoritative; coercive; democratic; pacesetting; affiliative and coaching. Clearly, there are many leadership styles. If we are to accept that these styles are transitional, then leaders must embrace and use a range of them on a daily basis. If we consider the growing complexity of educational leadership, the size of many educational institutions in  New Zealand and the constant demands for growth and change, then there may well be an imperative to do more than embrace contingent leadership. Harris (2012) echoes the need to embrace change in the way we lead towards future success. She suggests the following: “ The unit of change is no longer the school or the system but the individual learner with his or her own personalised learning pathway. Schools of the future are more likely to require multiple rather than  3 Friar.P. Leadership theory and effective practice . individual leaders. As organisations become more complex, diffuse and networked, various forms of direction and influence will be required to respond to quickly shifting and changing environments ”  (p. 9). Personal experience and a growing body of literature suggest that there is no ‘one style’  or ‘one person’ that will build and sustain a  highly effective educational institution. Caldwell (2006) supports this assumption, when he refers to the need for serious distribution of leadership and identifies “…that transformation across the system will not occur with top -down and bottom- up approaches” (p.193). Duig nan (2006), in his chapter on leadership capability (personal and relational), suggests: “It is unlikely that one person, for example the  principal, is capable in all these areas. This is why shared and distributed leadership are such important models”  (p.150). Bennett, Crawford and Cartwright (2003) posit : “School leadership is beyond the undertakings of one heroic individual. It is simply not possible, and may not even be desirable, for one individual to take every leadership task within a school”  (p.181) . Ritchie and Deakin Crick (2007) argue: “We need to move away from the model of a single leader to a more inclusive approach that views the leadership capacity of the school as something that involves all staff, and as something that can be increased over time”  (p.37). The enormity of the leadership role (in the context of New Zealand schools) and the impossibility of being ‘everything for everybody’ must b ear considerable reflection. Gronn (2003.b) emphasises this when he states that “… in any organisatio n there is rarely ever just one leader and a number of followers”  (p.278). Serrell-Cooke (2011) found that establishing new roles for individuals, described as ‘Subject Matter Experts’ , resulted in: “… a real and rapid impact on not only the delivery of organisational goals, but also on accelerating acceptance of the organisational change,  by even the most resistant members, and on delivering the required culture change. Within a matter of months the organisation was operating at an enhanced tempo, with a co-ordinated focus on enhanced organisational outcomes”   (p. 2). Suffice to say, there is an unequivocal voice to suggest that a more effective leadership style is one that is distributed/distributing. This should imply some urgency for New Zealand schools to distribute leadership and in doing so to grow as ‘learning communities’  (a feature among institutions where distributed leadership predominates). Harris (2003) supports this notion and identifies that “…leadership is about learning together and constructing meaning and knowledge collectively and collaboratively” (p. 314). Clearly , distributed leadership is about people and situations and it crosses structural and cultural boundaries.
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