Sunday, July 31, 2011

School leadership

Teachers are classroom leaders. Typically, they respond to situations and context, and manage their classrooms with integrity. They have internalized knowledge of human behaviour, pedagogical practices and group dynamics. They marry curriculum expectations with skills, knowledge and experience. Once teachers move into leadership roles their perspective changes.
Principal leaders must take a synergistic, dynamic creature; a school's culture, and control diverse aspects of its functioning. They must manage all of the demands of administration to ensure that the school runs smoothly. They attend and chair meetings, hire high-quality teaching and non-teaching staff, become staff and system managers, and budget specialists. Perhaps the most important aspect of their jobs is as mediators: between students, staff, parents and community members. They must please a number of their own bosses, all those with a stake in education. Stakeholders demand a great deal of their time and pass on new top-down initiatives, rules, regulations and, in the new millennium: policy changes, budget cuts and bad news. They are pressed between demands above and below. Some days are met simply managing crises which range from upset parents, to crying students or teachers looking for direction and policy decisions.
One of the most time consuming demands in an administrator's time, aside from the paperwork, is supporting staff members. Those who work in education are facing an increased change in the nature and complexity of their teaching assignments, in severity of learning needs, budget cuts and in top down reforms. Teacher morale, defined (Mendel, 1987) as "a feeling, a state of mind, a mental attitude", is of major concern to a number of educators. (Lemon 2000). These stresses can be perceived as a demoralizing or an empowering trauma, which can have a positive or a negative effect. Many teachers have taken the opportunity to refresh and refocus themselves. Teachers are striving to work smarter, not harder. New teachers, however, unsupported by new administrators with not much more experience leading a school than their subordinates, are desperate for unconditional support.


Educator morale has been classified in three categories: environmental, interpersonal and intrapersonal stress (Swick, 1980). This morale problem hits all panels: from elementary to secondary to the universities. Environmental stress includes outside factors such as budget cuts, increased class sizes and new technological advances and it affects teachers, principals, senior staff and students. Interpersonal stress encompasses the personal relationships we experience at home and at work, and low morale leads those in education to leap to hypercritical conclusions about themselves. Educators facing this kind of stress believe they are inadequate as contributing members of society (Cole & Walker, 1989) and become tired, stressed and ill.
In a study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, ""Good bosses promote employee health" " researchers examined the positive health benefits of fair and just treatment by bosses. Fairness in decision making appears to decrease psychological stress even more that fair treatment by bosses. More than 4,000 employees in seven Finnish hospitals found that the risk of psychological stress was 50 -70 % lower at work places managed in a just manner. Psychological stress was 30 - 40% lower in municipal employees over the workplaces in which employees had less healthy, more just management practices. They studied 18,000 people representing all groups of municipal employees.


Chronic job stress leads to job burnout. (Ray, et al, 1985) Some principals, as much as teachers, have succumbed to burnout and the physiological manifestations of their stress levels. They are becoming increasingly ill and retire early, much before a staff can benefit from their strength, intrapersonal skills, experience and expertise in educational matters. In schools with less than supportive styles of leadership staff feel unsupported and disempowered and they experience health, social, emotional and morale problems. Leaving these problems unresolved results in tension, stress and more serious health issues. Federation representatives estimate that two thirds of LTD claims are stress-related (Falls, 2001), and Federation officers (Lemon, 2000) have been seeing more severe counseling cases each week.
Principals are encouraged to harass sick teachers at home, to save on occasional teacher budgets as school board funding diminishes and cut backs have to be made. Absenteeism strategies result in increased stress, rather than concern for the individual and a management program to change the stressors and help the teacher. This worsens the stress and increases the patterns of illness.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have had an influx of teacher-clients who complain of stress caused by their work. Distressful working conditions and the characteristics of coping behaviours in teachers have been studied for a long time. It results in an increased inability to take one's job seriously. It is the fight or flight response. These feelings are exacerbated by principal leaders who must juggle numerous demands on their time. Some new principals are more concerned with following the "To Do" lists superintendents have sent out, rather than creating a collaborative, collegial learning community that Fullan (1993, 1999) envisions. It results in teachers giving up the fight, limiting their school involvement and removing the cause of their stress: their jobs. In a report to their executive, OCETF staff report elevated stress levels

Contributing Factors

Funding cutbacks are an international problem. Those who demand better schools also advocate for school change with little or no money to back up these reforms. Massive changes to school systems and infrastructure (Bascia, 2000) worldwide (Australian Senate, 1999) have resulted in many teachers jumping off of the sidewalk, either temporarily or permanently. In Ontario, with a turnover rate of 50% in administration (Funston, 2000) and a shortage of new teachers (Toronto Star, 2000), we are facing a crisis with a double-edged sword. Currently, in Ottawa Carleton 25% of teachers are new grads (OCETF, 2000) with little experience and expertise in the profession, managing and maintaining a classroom.
Those who remain in the profession find few rewards to keep them in the system. Teacher retention is an international problem, as well. One new teacher in Ottawa estimates that 30 of her cohort of 100 have quit the profession, choosing alternative careers. Research articles are looking for cures (Lumsden, 1998) but simple solutions are not forthcoming.

Principal Teacher Relationships

Leithwood & Jantzi (1999) explored the relationship between principal and teachers. Much is unknown about the manner in which principal and teacher interrelationships affect schools and students. Their studies found that student performance is mediated by school conditions: purposes and goals, culture, planning, structure and organization, information collection. Their study found little effect on student engagement by principal leadership factors. Evidence is also limited on the effects teacher leaders have on schools. Teacher leaders can include team leaders, master teachers, mentors for new teachers and volunteers for new initiatives. However, in schools in which there is increased participation in school decisions, it results in a more democratic school, which increased empowerment. There is little quantitative evidence of teacher leadership and its effects on students.

Principal Turnaround

Principals turn around in Ontario has been 60 % in the most recent wave of retirements. New principals may only have the required five years teaching experience. This means they have not had the opportunity to work with a number of diverse principal leaders who can model strength and leadership. Patterson (1993) noticed a pattern in what he calls the "shifting definitions of leadership", and sees some leaders who embody the values of power and control, as they attempt to exercise authority and keep power. Patterson has a vision of the schools of tomorrow. He ideally defines the leadership role: "the process of influencing others to achieve mutually agreed upon purposes for the organization" (1993, p.3). The dynamic organization that is a school is best led by those who do not micromanage, but rather share the power with staff, influence others to find a common vision, determine common goals and help staff make it so. Some leaders will not risk cultivating such a vision. They are more concerned with keeping power, rather than sharing it and risking collaboration.
Principals can share their power and still be in control. Enlightened leaders, before they can institute real change, must find some measure of the organizations strengths and weaknesses. They must have some confidence that their staffs will not over run them if they share the decision making power. Weak organizations, as Patterson (1993) says, are characterized by a top-down approach that requires employees to follow orders and forbids, if not discourages, employee participation. Enlightened leaders can risk dissension when they have the confidence to gather information, values, opinions and ideas from their staffs and, as the final decision is ultimately theirs, exert authority when they have all of the information they need to make a quality decision.
Leithwood and Duke (1999) call for school reform which must occur at the level of leadership, as much as at the school level. Roberts (2001) likens the leadership process to the round ring in which horses are taught to take a saddle. Many understand that their boss is there to issue orders, create rules and rigid requirements, rather than facilitating opportunities for discourse. When teachers break these rules, knowing or unknowingly, they feel victimized by threats of retribution. In a round table discussion, similar to Robert's round pen training rings, there are moments of discourse, which leads to harmony and sychronized visions for the future. When horses are given the choice of following, when teachers are given opportunities to buy into the change process, they are more likely to tackle the future and take risks. If the trust factor is not present and employees fear a boss, they poison the atmosphere. Roberts says (2001, p. 86) "It is critical in every organization to establish an environment whereby each employee is utterly confident that he or she will be treated in a fair and honest way shen she or she achieves positive results. Hargreaves & Fullan (1992 )believe that it is too much to expect that Principals and Vice Principals by themselves can transform the culture of a school. Their vision is to see every teacher as leader.

Management Styles

Leadership theories outline the following management styles; (Leithwood and Duke, 1999)
  • Managerial leadership
  • Transformational leadership
  • Participative leadership
  • Moral leadership
  • Instructional leadership
  • Contingent leadership

Managerial leadership

Leadership style depends upon the situation, the personality of the leaders and the current school climate, as much as a principal's experience. Principals-bosses must have a sense of having everything under control and some operate from a position of fear. Belittling and destructive statements are not uncommon in an atmosphere if mistrust and inexperience. Managers, are bosses and never a leader. It takes time for a new administrator to understand the culture of a school. Some administrators are facing self-doubt and lack of control and fear allowing their school staff to help make decisions. In the past, a principal's vision, and the purpose of the organization was thoughtfully examined and understood, but we do not have that luxury any more. This value of personal responsibility, keeping the locus of power and control, over rides the collaborative, collegial decision-making process.
These administrators do not allow staff to have a voice in most matters. They feel they must keep, rather than share, organizational power and control to not risk losing it. They must spend time getting to know the staff, the school culture, the students and the parents, but in this day and age time is something that is in short supply. Some new principal-leaders fear managing staff conflict and are hard-pressed to mediate decisions on behaviours, behaviour management and discipline strategies. Principals must deal with a host of new issues ranging form irate parents (who know how teachers should do their jobs), to socially, emotionally and physically stressed students, computer-generated report cards, anaphylactic allergies and extreme student behaviours, including physical and emotional violence.
Quick decisions are being made as principals attempt to respond to immediate demands for reports, decisions, statistics and results. Confident leaders allow participation in the decision-making process. Some principals are locked in their offices dealing with the mounds of paper work, or innumerable on-line surveys and reports that must be filed, rather than cruising halls preventing inappropriate behaviour and sharing a nod or a smile with their students and staff. Experienced principals are out of school attending innumerable meetings, selecting new principals candidates, new student teachers, leading workshops and training new leaders. They are not in the schools modeling their exemplary behaviour for aspiring leaders.

Transformational Leaders

Transformational Leaders (Liontos, 1992) inspire higher levels of commitment and capacity amongst staff. They generate greater effort and productivity to develop a more skilled practice. It increases the capacity of the organization to continuously improve. These leaders have:
* idealized vision*a shared perspective and vision making him/her likeable and honourable and worthy of imitation = mentorship.
*strong articulation of future vision and motivation to lead.
*Personal power - based on expertise, respect and admiration of a unique hero
*transforms people to share the radical changes advocated.
This is what a transformational leader looks like (Liontos, 1992) :
* Visit each classroom every day; assist in classrooms; encourage teachers to visit one another's classes.* Involve the whole staff in deliberating on school goals, beliefs, and visions at the beginning of the year.
* Help teachers work smarter by actively seeking different interpretations and checking out assumptions; place individual problems in the larger perspective of the whole school; avoid commitment to preconceived solutions; clarify and summarize at key points during meetings; and keep the group on task but do not impose your own perspective.
* Use action research teams or school improvement teams as a way of sharing power. Give everyone responsibilities and involve staff in governance functions. For those not participating, ask them to be in charge of a committee.
* Find the good things that are happening and publicly recognize the work of staff and students who have contributed to school improvement. Write private notes to teachers expressing appreciation for special efforts.
* Survey the staff often about their wants and needs. Be receptive to teachers' attitudes and philosophies. Use active listening and show people you truly care about them.
* Let teachers experiment with new ideas. Share and discuss research with them. Propose questions for people to think about.
* Bring workshops to your school where it's comfortable for staff to participate. Get teachers to share their talents with one another. Give a workshop yourself and share information with staff on conferences that you attend.
* When hiring new staff, let them know you want them actively involved in school decision-making; hire teachers with a commitment to collaboration. Give teachers the option to transfer if they can't wholly commit themselves to the school's purposes.
* Have high expectations for teachers and students, but don't expect 100 percent if you aren't also willing to give the same. Tell teachers you want them to be the best teachers they possibly can be.
* Use bureaucratic mechanisms to support teachers, such as finding money for a project or providing time for collaborative planning during the workday. Protect teachers from the problems of limited time, excessive paperwork, and demands from other agencies.
* Let teachers know they are responsible for all students, not just their own classes.
The nine dimensions of Transformational leadership: charisma, goal consensus, high performance expectations, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, modeling, contingent reward, structuring, culture building create a school culture in which excellence is rewarded, new ideas are embraced and a discourse is open to all who could seek school change.
Monty Roberts' horse training philosophy has been applied to human relations; he and his wife have been foster parents to 47 children. He also lectures to executives and corporations and gives demonstrations of his philosophy, which many have applied to education and business. He believes that you must convince animals, children, and employees to "Join Up". He believes that with trust you build a cooperative human spirit in which you do not need to threaten, force or intimidate. He believes that "trust, respect and communication-not coercion-are the key to fruitful relationships". Rather than whispering, he listens. If a leader must use threats and wield their power, then the employee is not truly following. Leaders need to learn to listen.

Participative Leadership

In a collaborative environment in which the leader does not employ positional power, the employee is free to follow and give their very best. Teachers take risks and learn from them. In such an environment change is not only possible but it is lauded.
Decision making, with contributions from all staff members, takes time. It does strengthen the organization. It creates a strong cohesive group and the "two heads are better than one" is a core truth crucial to this style of leadership. It promotes the we, rather than the me. It empowers all staff members to participate fully and it harvests the very best from all their staff members. Many principals, heading for a senior staff position want high performances, good PR and to be able to highlight their school as an example of what their strong leadership style can do. They see those senior positions in the distance and, as with horses with blinders, do not have their school's long-term goals at heart. They lose sight of the importance of walking the halls, rather than smugly crossing items off of their To Do Lists and to submit reports to staff.
Educators, teachers, and other stakeholders work harder to create a vision in which they have input and, therefore, some commitment. It transforms the organization as much as the participants. All stakeholders walk arm-in-arm towards this vision and attempt to make this dream come true. Roberts (2001) calls this the Follow-up process. Instead of domination by a leader it creates a position of partnership and an investment in the outcome.

Sharing Power

These leaders create more power by sharing it. They develop a loyalty in their staff. The leader can inspire, model and create more power by allowing a staff to choose to wear the saddle. They can create that synergy that results from a strong, dynamic school culture. They ask their staff members what they want or need and try to make it so. They expect input, they desire it. They want a shared vision. Participative leaders are influenced by interpersonal communications in order to have increased participation in decisions. They have increased capacity of responses, which respond productively to internal and external demands for change. It is a democratic organization.

Moral Leaders

Moral Leaders use a system of moral values to guide organization decision making. They increase the sensitivity to the rightness of decisions and facilitate increased participation in decisions. Their decisions are morally justified in democratic schools. Active participation inspires all staff members, strengthens and creates diversity. Moral leaders are hard pressed to make quick , cost-effective decision, but they are patient with dissenters and give them a chance to voice concerns, which they can deal with from a position of strength and confidence. They value diversity and they do not require conformity or that staffs bow low to their every decision.

Instructional leadership

Instructional leaders see the focus of school improvlemtns as being curricuolum-based. Heck (1990) reports that principal time and attention as they are clarifying, coordinating and communicating a school vision, leads to school achievement, not the traditional clinical supervision of teachers. Principals can influence by expecting a vision and particular attitudes and behaviours.

Contingent leaders

Contingent leaders are situational in that they respond to context. Their leader behaviours match the goals and result in an increased capacity of he organization to respond to internal and external demands for change. Leaders can change their leadership styles with different employees and in different situations. Principals must manage both teaching and non-teaching employees. In Ontario, experienced, suitable employees are in short supply.
This research paper, Analyzing the Leadership Behaviour of School Principals, , was presented at the Association for the Advancement of Educational Research conference at Pointe Vedra, Florida on December 1,1999. The authors compare the leadership behaviours that negatively or positively affect teacher morale and performance. They compared using these classifications: Human Relations, Trust & Decisions, Instructional Leadership, Control and Conflict in order to focus on what a good principal does.
Where would your school score on their the the AAER checklists?
This table is adapted from: Analyzing the Leadership Behaviour of School Principals

Human Relations

My principal uses eye contact.
My principal demonstrates a caring attitude.
My principal involves me in decisions.
My principal interacts with all staff in a positive, respectful manner.
My principal listens to me, thoughtfully and non-judgementally.
My principal models good communications skills.
My principal helps teachers to find resources, rather than to make do with what they have.
My principal provides positive reinforcement.
My principal remains a collaborative member of the staff.
My principal compliments me.
My principal remembers what it is like to be a teacher.
My principal has supported me when parents were involved, whether I was right or wrong, and helped shape my teaching practice for the better.

Trust & Decisions

My principal corrects me privately, with dignity and respect.
My principal never "nit picks" on evaluations.
My principal avoids gossip aboutstakeholders in education.
My principal uses cooperation and empowerment, not coercion, to motivate me.
My principal implements new initiatives based thorough knowledge and research of new fads.
My principal never makes decisions as a reaction to an incident.
My principal values trust and confidence.
My principal listens to both sides of the story before making a decision.
My principal evaluates situations carefully before taking action.
My principal makes judgments based on gathered information and data.
My principal bases evaluations and opinions about me based on many observations.

Instructional Leadership

My principal seldom interrupts my teaching, and only when necessary, with dignity and respect.
My principal demonstrates a vision that includes me.
My principal is knowledgeable about the curriculum.
My principal is knowledgeable about instructional strategies.
My principal applies procedures consistently.
My principal deals will my problems and concerns and values my well-being.
My principal follow up on all initiatives: behaviour, safety, personnel.
My principal has rules that are fairly applied to all and enforces them.
My principal holds people accountable.
My principal provides reflective feedback regarding my teaching.


My principal expects work with reasonable timelines, not to be done "yesterday" with no notice.
My principal accepts and delegates responsibility at the right time.
My principal assigns no duty during planning periods.
My principal is flexible and creative, not rigid and inflexible.
My principal assigns only necessary paperwork.
My principal shares decision-making and power.
My principal seldom uses the words "I" and "my", but usually uses "we".


My principal is able to keep a confidence.
My principal is unafraid to question his/her superiors for the good of staff and students.
My principal seldom "passes the buck", rather than dealing with a situation.
My principal does not have double standards for him/herself or various staff members.
My principal is impartial when dealing with influential parents.
My principal never shows favouritism to some teachers or staff.
My principal supports me even if I am wrong and helps me improve as a professional.

Based on: - as accessed Oct. 2002.

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