Beginning of the Program - Leadership Philosophy
My philosophy of leadership is simple. A leader is a person who has vision, the ability to think strategically as well as take action and has the capacity to make ordinary people do extraordinary things.
An effective leader must have the answers to three questions that are an essential part of the planning process – Where we are? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? If you don’t know where you are, then you can go nowhere, and if you don’t know where you want to go it will not matter what road you take because you’ll never get there. Another way of saying the same thing is that you cannot locate an address in Chicago using a map of New York. The Teleology Theory combined with Virtue Ethics can guide decisions when what is right or wrong is not obvious. Teleology Theory considers the consequences of action in terms of what will produce the most good and do the least harm. Virtue Ethics focus is on the well being of others (Beckner, 2004, p.151). I believe that it is easy to make sure you do no harm, but to focus on doing good is the ultimate goal of a leader.
The purpose of a business is to create customers according to Peter Drucker, the greatest business philosopher of the 20th century, and the purpose of a school is to produce competent students who are the principal reason for its existence (Drucker, 1973, p.73). But like a business, a school has three constituencies that a leader must take into account – students, parents and teachers. All must play their appropriate part if the school and the education system are to be successful. A leader must thoroughly analyze the situation and understand the strengths and weaknesses of these three constituencies in order to develop appropriate strategies and action plans that meet the needs of the existing organization. A leader must not only be efficient but she must even more importantly be effective. That means not only must the leader do things right but she must also do the right things. She must manage for results. This can only be done by establishing specific short and long term goals and measuring actual results against these specific goals. According to research, the Goal-Setting Theory suggests that people work hard when they have realistic, specific, and challenging goals and receive feedback about progress toward the goals (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p. 168). As a current teacher, I see and feel the importance of knowing what my end goals are. Without feedback, I feel lost at times. As a leader, I will remember that teachers need fundamental things to be in place: a curriculum, assessments, accountability. Part of a teacher being held accountable begins with a leader giving laser like focus to the establishment of professional goals. Everyone must feel that the school’s goals are communicated, clear and realistic before they will accept and commit to them.
One of the greatest educational challenges is to stop the growing achievement gap between middle and low income students. In addition, the dropout rate for Latino and African American youth are very high. I believe that the single most important factor on student progress is having effective teachers in the classroom. According to the Expectancy Theory, “people subjectively evaluate the expected values on outcomes or personal payoffs resulting from their actions, and then they choose how to behave” (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p.154). If people don’t feel like their efforts are worth anything and that they will not be appreciated, then they will be less likely to be committed. As a leader, I want to facilitate the buy-in from my teachers and this will begin with making them feel valued and recognized. This can be as simple as verbal praise during an encounter or a written letter of appreciation for their hard work.
There are no specific qualities that are characteristic of all leaders. Some are collaborative, some are authoritarian, some are hard driving, and some are very personable. Irrespective of style the effective leader produces the right results by planning, organizing, staffing, delegating and monitoring. The truth is a principal cannot do it all alone. She must observe the Team Effectiveness Model which states that teams are more creative and productive when they can achieve high levels of participation, cooperation, and collaboration among members. There are three basic conditions that need to be created before such behavior can occur: mutual trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy (Druskatt &Wolf, 2001, p.83). According to the Primal Leadership Theory, the leader in any human group has been the one to whom others look for assurance and clarity when facing uncertainty or threat, or when there’s a job to be done. The leader acts as the group’s emotional guide (Goleman, 2002, p. 5). If a leader is not approachable, then teachers will not feel comfortable seeking support which will inevitably have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the teachers.
Not only in words, but even more so in action a principal should come across as a friend, a guide, a motivator and as a champion of student learning and achievement. Greenleaf states that leadership through example and personal conduct are the most essential elements in the development of a better and more ethical organization (Beckner, 2004, p.153). In my view a school leader must do eight specific things that will produce high quality education:
- Introduce a broader, more rigorous and interesting curriculum combined with processes that will increase state mandated test scores.
- Develop better and more effective teachers meeting high standards. This has to be done through better qualitative recruitment, improved teacher training, stronger motivation to perform effectively and accountability for results.
- Introduce more meaningful teacher evaluation benchmarks than just test score results. This could perhaps be done by establishing a “Management by Objectives” program in which each teacher sits with the principal and jointly establish their goals for the year that can be quantitatively measured or assessed on a pre-agreed basis.
- Shape the school environment into not just a social arena but also an exciting and fun place of learning by constantly looking for new ideas, working in teams, and involving students, teachers, parents and experts in the process.
- Ensure that the necessary logistics are in place and there is a fair allocation of tasks and resources that will help produce the desired results.
- Greater parental involvement in the educational process particularly among the Latino and African American communities.
- Investigate, consider and use as a pilot program new teaching methods such as homeroom teachers and specialized teachers for each subject at each grade level.
- Use data based systems to measure and monitor progress of the school.
Finally, a leader must be willing to change with the times and keep up with the best practices in order to create a successful organization.