Why is leadership in learning communities so important? There are many examples of inspiring leaders at all levels delivering improvements. Never-the-less, the deleterious ramifications arising due to management strategies which have malfunctioned are evident within many educational systems. Despite conflicting views on the characteristics of effective leadership, it is a topic which cannot be ignored. The features underlying good governance require positive responses to certain key questions. Exemplars would include: Has collective trust been established and enhanced? Is there a willingness to acknowledge mistakes, learn from them and make the necessary adjustments and constructive developments?
When things might go astray: Healthy organisations enable working conditions and the pursuit of knowledge to be pleasurable and fruitful. The converse often results in stress among staff and learners, personal harm and the undermining of the growth of a vibrant culture. There are real and present dangers associated with varying management styles be they ‘autocratic’, ‘laissez-faire’, ‘charismatic’, ‘macho-managerial’ or what might be termed ‘invisible’!
Much more than interviews before permanent appointments: There needs to be a reliable arrangement which guarantees robust and evidence-based reasons behind key appointments. These could be based on: careful scrutiny of personal and social qualities, such as in teamwork; proven achievements in previous positions of responsibility; and professional attributes relating to creativity, problem-solving, innovative practices and evaluation procedures. On occasions, there will be justifiable reasons for tenures to be of a temporary nature until it is definite that selections are appropriate. If terminated, in order to be fair to personnel and with their wellbeing in mind, there also should be methods to allow them to return to previous posts in which they were proficient and comfortable.
Facing up to challenges: When an organisation begins to function poorly there is often a constellation of adverse factors leading predictably to the breakdown of everyday routines. A specific responsibility of leadership during periods of adjustment is to focus on the overall welfare of students and staff. Regrettably, some senior managers have yet to realise that stress and tensions frequently arise from institutional factors, such as poor communication or inadequate guidance. Competent leaders are creative in reframing the sources of stress into a series of reasonable challenges which are acceptable to those encountering difficulties.
Towards a collegiate approach: The traits of those in power comprise a spectrum from hubris to humility. However, there is a strong case for maintaining that modesty prevails over arrogance in terms of desirability and long-term effectiveness. The qualities of self-effacement, honesty and compassion in leadership, though undervalued in practice, are often those which are remembered most fondly about our former bosses. It is unfortunate that some leaders who take up their new posts are full of their own vanity and, on appointment, are needlessly too critical of the organisation over which they now wish to impose their control. There is a distinct need for an emphasis on “we together” rather than “I” when strategies for progress are being decided. A collegiate approach acknowledges that, within and across groups, shared leadership can be learned, activated and successful.
How education communities and campuses benefit: Confident organisers do not blur the realities of their responsibilities or cause confusion through conveying ambiguous notions of how they wish to go forward. They are not afraid to communicate clearly and to ‘give away’ or ‘grow’ leadership skills. Not only do they share their ideas with others but also and, perhaps even more importantly, they create a climate in which alternative views and suggestions can be aired and debated. The sincere cultivation of managerial roles and acceptance with regard to joint implementation of related responsibilities nurture and strengthen mutual interests. In turn, enthusiasm and resilience are promoted among all involved and energise them in overcoming barriers to improvements.
Concluding comments: Thoughtful courses of action relating to good management are: candid and easily understood; achievable; open and accessible; and empowering for everyone. Purposeful leadership ensures the enhancement of professional satisfaction among everybody with accountability for delivering a meaningful curriculum. Simultaneously, it focuses on a united approach towards augmenting features related to personal worth. These include agency, self-belief, relevant attainments and achievements, life skills and emotional resilience among students of all abilities. Within a dynamic and cooperative ethos, staff have autonomy and conviction while undertaking their duties; students embrace and enjoy their studies and acquire appropriate competences. Ultimately, the essential qualities of a motivated and inspiring milieu must be that affirmative aspirations and activities are to be found at all levels of engagement within a secure, pleasant and civilised learning culture.
Reference: For a more detailed analysis of leadership in education, please use the link below to the article entitled “Education Really Matters: Leadership in Education”. https://improvingcareand.education/2021/05/03/leadership-in-education/