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Are Principa Ls Leaders

Are Principa Ls Leaders Image
It seems to be the thing these days to see principals as leaders. The claim has been made that schools are 'over managed but under led'. What is the difference between the two, and can all principals really be leaders, and do all need to?

A visionary leader provides those who follow ( who 'volunteer' to go with the leader)a sense of a better place to work towards or a new sense of direction. Such a leader has to have the credibility to encourage ( give heart to ) others to be brave enough to leave the comfort of the status quo. It seems that most people, in any area of life, would rather put up with known difficulties than take the risk of trying something particularly when faced up with the possibility that the new thing might not work.

I think that there are never really very many principals who have to desire to lead their school into such problematic territory? Such leaders need considerable courage and belief in their ideas to venture into the unknown but this might not be so important if we appreciate we can equally be led by shared ideas.

Even if the new destination attractive to followers leaders would have to work hard at relationships, work out some short term goals and hold people accountable to what they have agreed to. This requires leaders with real passion for the new destination so as to be able to share this with others who might not be so clear about what it all might mean.

All leaders need to create high expectations and care about ensuring those who agree to work towards the agreed school vision get all the help and training they need to support all efforts that people make towards the vision. This means giving both specific guidance, coaching and feedback and seeing 'mistakes' as part of the growth process.

This includes having a 'tough-love' attitude to those who do not put into practice what they have agreed to do; they hold people accountable. Weak leaders avoid such painful conversations and in the process lose their authority and credibility.

Principals can equally lead by aligning themselves with other schools and work together with others as long as they share the vision. Not every principal wants to, or needs to, be an individualistic leader. Wise principals align themselves behind shared ideas and leadership might well come from outside the school. Groups of schools working together provide supportive leadership for school principals to work within and may provide a more realistic form of leadership at the school level.

The best leadership is the alignment behind agreed shared beliefs. The key to real change is to work between and within schools to develop these beliefs. Schools working collaboratively ( while retaining school individuality) is the real basis for widespread change. In this situation the ideas provide the leadership and the principals role is 'to keep the herd roughly pointed West'! This would be a full time job for each school principal.

This collegial leadership would seem to be a more positive, if less heroic, role but it is certainly more than management. So it seems that there are degrees of leadership depending on the desire to change the 'status quo'.

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