Thursday, October 8, 2009

Leadership and Strategy

Cheng, Y.C. (2002). Leadership and Strategy. In T. Bush & L. Bell (Eds.) The Principles and Practice of Educational Management (pp.51-69). London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Today I am working on my ETL504 assignment. I have decided to alternate on the two assignments from day to day. A bit schizophrenic? Maybe so, but it's working for me so far. I don't allow myself to get too bogged down on one or the other, and I avoid having one that is excellent while the other not even started.
The rationale of the 504 assignment is to provide me with an opportunity to document my progress towards the learning objectives of the course, which are primarily concerned with organisational and leadership theory, strategic planning, and communication, collaboration and teamwork.
I have discovered a couple of readings that I have somehow missed along the way, so I'm making sure that I get totally up to date.
Reading 7, Leadership and Strategy, is an overview of leadership theory in the context of educational organisations. Cheng contrasts traditional leadership theories with transformational leadership, strategic leadership, and organisational learning.
Traditional leadership theories focus on management techniques and interpersonal skills. They assume that the goals of an organisation are a given, and encourage leaders to adapt their behaviour to circumstances to work towards these goals.
A transformational perspective sees the leader as not only adapting to circumstances, but transforming them, working to shape organisation members' beliefs, values and attitudes. Organisational goals, rather than being fixed, are seen as ambiguous in a changing environment. The leader is not only focused on goal achievement, but also on goal development and organisational culture building.
See p. 58 for a table that outlines the different domains and dimensions of this kind of leadership, covering everything from "Motivate members to love students and education and have a strong passion to pursue excellence in teaching and learning" to "Interpret the conflicts in a constructive way and value the importance of win-win solution".
Cheng then goes on to discuss the challenges for leaders in a climate of debate over educational quality and reform of educational practice. See p. 61 for a table that summarises different strategies for achieving education quality, including "Encourage participation and promote social interactions and positive classroom and institutional climate" and "Establish a strategic plan for institutional development".
Strategic management in educational organisations is becoming a necessity in a rapidly changing environment. Strategic leadership can be seen as leadership that allows the strategic management process, which keeps the organisation continually improving and developing, to work efficiently.
The changing educational environment is also leading to an emphasis on organisational learning. The essential question is how can leadership facilitate teachers' continuous reflection on actions and learing to improve their teaching and daily practice?
So what have I learned from this reading. It is a very hard task to do leadership well. Like many things, to do just a so-so job is not too hard, but to do it right takes commitment. I wonder how many of these leadership domains and dimensions are intuitive for experienced leaders? They may not be able to articulate exactly what they're doing and why, but I think a lot of Principals are aware of the pressures on schools and teachers, and instinctively know that they have to do more than just say "mush! mush!" and keep everyone's nose to the grindstone. They have to make what happens within schools a meaningful experience for both staff and students.
Stay tuned for more exciting instalments in "the wonderful world of ETL504".

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