Why is leadership important?
Fitzgerald and Schutte (2010) have written extensively on transformational leadership and we can easily apply their scholarship of leadership to educational practice because we recognize that:
- Effective educational intervention requires strong partnerships and collaboration.
- Leadership skills support positive thinking that promotes innovation and entrepreneurialism.
- Innovation is required to solve complex health and social challenges.
- Leaders set organizational culture that enhances engagement of colleagues.
To transform practices in an educational setting, therefore, requires that we are keenly aware of our own individual leadership strengths and skills to communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders to solve complex problems, create compelling and engaging vision, and initiate innovative ideas that empowers change (Fernandez, Noble, Jensen & Steffen, 2014). When we exchange knowledge and challenge and support one another to set and meet high expectations we are exhibiting leadership and better serving the needs of the individuals we serve as clinicians. And what is most exciting is that is what, for the most part, our school teams are motivated to do. Teachers often turn to their education partners to help them build key knowledge and skills to address the challenging needs of students in their classrooms. They look to related service providers to help them navigate the complexity of teaching students with a myriad of needs successfully in their classrooms. Our leadership builds the capacity of teachers to be successful in their roles; our leadership is designed to enhance teachers’ success in roles that increase their knowledge and skills to effectively teach students.
When we assume leadership roles on our teams, in other words, out students’ outcomes improve! And what’s even more exciting, is that leadership can come from anyone on the team, not necessarily, and perhaps with even more value, from someone not in an authoritative position such as the principal. In a research brief published by the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement we learn that when team members build and exercise their leadership in the educational settings, collaboration and problem solving is enhanced and curricular, instructional and assessment practices improve. This results in greater student learning and achievement! The Teacher Leadership Skills Framework outlines many of the skills we need to be effective leaders in the educational setting (Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, 2018). Take a look at the competencies that are reviewed in the Framework and consider completing an inventory of your own educational leadership skills using the Teacher Leader Self-Assessment.
Fernandez, Noble, Jensen and Steffen (2014) suggest that in addition to individual leadership capacities, organizational and institutional leadership skills are valuable assets as well. Can you think of an organization you have participated in in which organizational leadership was lacking? The authors suggest that organizational leaders:
- Use systems thinking to strengthen capacity in others
- Build strategic partnerships to effect change
- Empower others for successful planning and decision making
- Assess trends for future development
Imagine a time in your first year of practice where you might employ one of these organizational leadership skills on your educational team. What might that look like?