Leadership and how it is defined or recognised differs amongst many. The term and the execution can often be mistaken for management rather than someone who leads an organization, or in this case a school (Quality Leadership in Australian Schools, 2007). Leadership identifies two crucial aspects: WHAT style of leadership is executed (organizational theory) and HOW effective leadership is implemented (leading change). Teachers have already committed to becoming effective leaders just by choosing to be teachers themselves (Collay, 2008, p.28). So whether they realize it or not, they naturally develop a leadership style within their everyday teaching. They support and guide their students through their educational journey and this is succeeded through change. But for teachers to be true leaders, they must be reflective practitioners that are committed to life-long learning. The school context is continually evolving, so teachers must adapt and learn so that they can lead, and learn as they lead (MacBeath, J. E., & Dempster, N. 2009, p.49).
A starting point for leading change should be a moral purpose, accompanied by a shared vision (Dempster, 2008; Law & Glover, 2000; Winzenreid, 2010). Leading change requires effective management, but change also requires leadership. An effective leader is able to distinguish the difference. “Change management refers to a set of basic tools or structures intended to keep any change effort under control. The goal is often to minimise the distractions and impacts of the change. Change leadership, on the other hand, concerns the driving forces, visions and processes that fuel large-scale transformation.” (Kotter, 2011). The moral purpose amongst all schools should be that through learning, people’s lives would be enhanced or improved (Dempster, 2008). The vision set out by the leader is that of their own beliefs and values. However, it also has to reflect the values and beliefs of all stakeholders (Quality Leadership in Australian Schools, 2007). This purpose can be achieved through an enabling environment that is collaborative, built on trust, fosters teamwork, innovation and promotes problem solving. With that comes openness. But to succeed in both elements, communication is vital. Without effective communication, a leader is unable to make sustainable change that needs to be implemented effectively to enhance and improve student’s lives.
Don Tapscott (2012) identifies two different types of change: change that occurs within yourself as a teacher as you evolve with the demands of technology and the needs of the 21st century learners. The second being the change in values in order to implement change. To address the two, he has identified four principles: collaboration, transparency, sharing and empowerment. These principles are imperative to effectively lead. The leadership in the school stems from the principal. He or she is responsible for leading change, as the Teacher Librarian, staff and the school community respond to the decisions made by him or her. “Effective school leaders have expertise in building school and community capacity and collegiality” (Quality Leadership in Australian Schools, 2007). For example:
- The Principal defines the vision for the school (transparency).
- Through collaboration, the Principal shares the vision among school staff, students and the wider school community. He or she is who drives the change towards improving or enhancing people’s lives through learning (Dempster, 2008).
- The Principal has a wide range of knowledge and skills that can be shared among staff to assist and promote quality teaching and learning (sharing).
- Finally, the Principal empowers his or her colleagues by establishing long-term benefits.
However, while this demonstrates how a Principal effectively utilises these principles, Teacher Librarians demonstrate these principles in their role as a leader also.
There are many different leadership theories. When considering which leadership style is most suitable, there are conflicting opinions. Does a leader have to only portray one style of leadership? Or can a leader elect to possess various qualities that attain effective leadership? Transformational and instructional leadership styles are found to be comparable and many would argue that these two are the most suitable for an educational leader. As an instructional leader, the Principal is a resource provider, instructional resource, a communicator and visibly present (Smith, W. F., & Andrews, R. L. 1989). These four components are ideal for an educational setting and can also be represented in the leadership qualities that a Teacher Librarian possesses. As pointed out by Robert Greenleaf (1970, 1977), servant leadership emerges from a desire to help others, which is also a great quality or style for any effective leader. A great leader should work collaboratively, inspire, empower and share (Tapscott, 2012) rather than dictate a situation. When one considers the evolving educational setting and the current changes to the 21st century, there should be fluidity in the style of leadership, modifying the elements of leadership to suit different tasks and student cohorts (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005). There should not be one-style fits all approach, particularly in an educational setting.
Effective leadership skills such as technical, problem solving, decision making and the five domains of leadership for schools: personal, interpersonal, educational, strategic and organizational that are highlighted in the Leadership Capability Framework (School leadership capability framework, 2006) are imperative to the outcome and success of sustainable change and overall operation of the school.
Technical skills are essential in a 21st century context. As the school environment evolves with the digital revolution, a leader must first be able to master the skill of technology to then effectively implement sustainable change. Whilst it is important that a Principal as the leader of the school acquires these skills, it is now required that a Teacher Librarian is also a media specialist, “librarians need to actively promote their role as CIO and influence the leadership of the school” (Hough, 2014). Therefore, both the Principal and Teacher Librarian share the role of leading the school community in the area of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The school is an insightful, engaging and resourceful learning facility that should be utilised to assist its students to find purpose in what they are learning, connect it to other experiences and develop skills that are “fundamental to functioning successfully in today’s information and knowledge based society” (International Association of School Libraries, 2006).
Decision-making and problem solving are important aspects of leadership. The approach that leaders use for solving problems and making decisions contributes to the growth or dysfunction of a team (Leadership Management Development Center, Inc., 1997). In an educational context, the leader works collaboratively with their staff to achieve their vision. They encourage their colleagues to solve problems by taking calculated, legitimate risks (Quality Leadership in Australian Schools, 2007). Inevitably decisions shape and determine the future (State University of New York Press, 2009). Therefore the leader should possess the skill to both manage and execute decision-making and problem solving within their school to successfully sustain a collegial environment that epitomizes the moral purpose and vision the school upholds.
An effective educational leader also possesses skills that adhere to personal and interpersonal qualities. It is important that a leader is trustworthy, respectful and approachable. Communication is vital in upholding personal and interpersonal skills. Personal relationship skills are valued and they support their staff in achieving their full potential. Effective leaders encourage innovative thinking and possess emotional intelligence (Quality Leadership in Australian Schools, 2007). These qualities are reflected in the five domains in the Leadership Capability Framework. Without these characteristics, the school context would be dysfunctional. It would form boundaries that separate the leader from the school community rather than unite them together. The style of leadership will often reflect the skills that are utilised and ultimately determine the future success of the school in executing their vision.
In conclusion, leadership is not hierarchical rather a process and a product of the interactions between members of the school community and their situation. School leadership is not the sum of its individual leaders. School leadership is a system, a culture (Hargreaves & Fink, 2003). It involves various elements and qualities that engage with promoting life-long learning, leading change and implementing a shared vision and moral purpose. Effective leadership requires distinguished skills that are derived from the leadership style depicted. While there are various styles, many are comparable and a leader will often execute qualities from a range rather than a specific leadership style.
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