Philosophy of leadership 7


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Philosophy of leadership 7

  1. 1. Philosophy of Leadership 7<br />Amazingly, although I am studying Educational Leadership, I had never considered my leadership philosophy. However, as I think about my personal core values, I realize how they carry over into my beliefs about leadership. While journeying through this course, I kept returning to three ideas, around which I have developed my leadership philosophy. I believe leadership requires a person who believes that people have the good of the organization at heart. From that point, a leader must bring people together in a state of collaboration to determine the direction and path for change, which is a necessity for every organization. Lastly, a leader must work with all those affected to help them transition through the changes (or decisions) that are taking place, before, during, as well as after the change.<br />I have always considered the importance of evaluations of teachers, and self-reflection on practice, but I had never thought of it in terms of leadership. I think that many leaders rarely spend the time investigating their thinking and feelings; they just go about doing their “job”. Dee Hock (2000, p. 3) believes that “the first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self,” and I agree. As leaders, we must spend time with self-evaluation, looking at personal values, strengths, and weaknesses. Furthermore, we should be welcome to criticism. Without critics, we would have no one to point out our weaknesses and errors, and no one to help find alternatives to the choices we make. This is a challenge for me, however, as I often see criticism as negative rather than positive. It is also important to remember that what worked yesterday will not always work today. If leaders spend time looking inward, and discover more about themselves, it will allow them to develop a unique leadership style. Through my study, I have discovered that, for me, this style is one that includes follower empowerment, rather than follower dependence. <br />Through class discussion and reading, I have discovered the importance of leaders and followers working together to find a shared purpose. Followers often want to be in a place that represents their values and beliefs, and focuses on issues they find important (Hock, 2000). Leaders, therefore, must find the vision of the group, and help to clarify that vision. Leaders can assist and inspire the staff to determine the goals and direction by asking what they believe and want, where they want to go and why, [;] and how they can best get there. At this point, leaders must listen, and allow time for reflection, to determine what is really in the hearts of those making comments and expressing concerns. This can be a difficult task, or it is for me at least, as I often struggle to determine what people actually are saying with their words.<br />Leadership always involves change. I used to see the leader as the change agent, or the one who brings about change. Today, however, I believe that leadership can actually be a group process. Leaders must recognize that they do not have all of the answers, that there are others out there who can broaden their thinking. “One of the most important ways executives can demonstrate their commitment comes through how they work within their own teams” (Senge, 1996, p. 3).<br />The challenge then, I discovered, is how to determine who gets to be a part of the change (or decision-making) process. First I considered seeking out those staff members who are known to be change agents in the school. Next, I thought about those people closest to the issues needing change. Finally, I thought of those who may be seen as what Debra Meyerson calls “tempered radicals” (Meyerson, 2002, p. 1), or those teachers who challenge the status quo. Wherever they come from, it will be important for the leader to take time to go outside their usual network to find these people, and it will be equally important that the leader be constantly on the lookout for them (Spears, 2002). This is especially vital if the leader is the “tempered radical,” since many then will not see the need, or have the desire, for change.<br />I feel that, when the need for change presents itself, (no matter who determined the need) collaboration on the path for change is beneficial for leaders. Collaboration is a concept that can be applied in many areas of our personal and professional lives. I know it makes me feel good knowing that someone wants my input or thinks that my ideas matter. Having the opportunity to be involved in a decision to change provides a sense of ownership, therefore making the change easier to handle. I have found that leaders often speak of collaboration, but the practice may not actually be in place. Leaders may even believe that they are considering the opinions of others in making decisions, but are not actually involved in collaboration. Real collaboration involves putting the power in the hands of the people doing the work.<br />After reading Margaret Wheatley’s articles " Innovation Means Relying on Everyone’s Creativity" and " Goodbye, Command and Control" , the correlation between participation and productivity became clearer to me. Wheatley believes that people are more likely to support what they create, and by joining with others, groups can accomplish more than individuals can do alone (Wheatley, 1997). The leader’s role becomes simply to provide direction, encouragement, and meaning to the group, and become a persuasive role model (Senge, 1996). In addition to that, the leader should consider their role to be that which no one else is willing or able to do -- whether that is taskmaster, protector, or doer – whatever is needed for the group to achieve its goal (Bennis, 1997). They must be able to see the total picture and help others keep the goal in mind while persuading them to also think outside the box, which can feel risky. Because of this, a leader must recognize that failure is a way to make progress and as a way to learn from mistakes. Furthermore, I believe a leader must be sure that everyone has access to all the necessary information needed to make decisions. By sharing information widely, there are no “haves and have-nots”, no “in group” and no “out group” (Sturman, 2002).<br />I still feel, as I did in the past, that the environment is an important element for leaders. They should create an environment in which people are open to new ideas and responsive to change (Wheatley, 2001). Everyone must know and feel that they are needed and that they have the freedom to take responsibility (Sturman, 2002). Skills such as open-mindedness, constructive feedback, and sharing of ideas must also be included (Allen, et al., 1998). People should be encouraged to work together, ask questions, to listen to others' opinions, and to seek first to understand (Wheatley, 1997). They must learn from the experiences of others and embrace differences (Herringshaw, 1999). Within the group, there must be effective communication that fosters dialogue and honest inquiry (Senge, 1996). Everyone, leaders and followers alike, must learn to listen, and learn to talk, as, in my opinion, each is equally important. People should be encouraged to say what they see and think, and to challenge conventional thinking (Meyerson, 2002). Encouragement of this kind is important for leaders because I know that, although I encourage others to speak freely, but I often struggle with speaking freely myself.<br />After reading Harvey Seifter’s article, " The Conductor-less Orchestra" , I was further convinced of the necessity for valuable communication. Both leaders and followers must respect what is said and the person who said it – whether or not they agree. In making decisions, members must be willing to listen to the views of others, and to be flexible and willing to compromise on their own positions, therefore allowing for consensus on decisions. Leaders and followers alike must remember that no one person’s knowledge ranks higher than another; that each person is judged by their contribution to the goal, rather than by any superiority or inferiority, because no one person has all the answers to every question that may arise (Seifter, 2001). This kind of communication should be expected, fostered, and reinforced almost constantly by both leaders and followers.<br />On the surface, when I thought about collaboration, I assumed that the group always made the final decision. Charles Handy made me question that thinking. In his article, " Elephants and Fleas: Is Your Organization Prepared for Change?" , he discusses how decisions that are made by a group should be ones that can best be reached there, with nothing more. Decisions that are best made by someone else (individual or another group) should not be considered. This is an important aspect for leaders to consider so that they do not go “overboard” in their collaboration efforts. I feel that collaboration is a good thing; however, some decisions may still need to be made by individuals.<br />Collaboration, although a good idea in theory, does present problems. Consensus must be able to be reached when so many different ideas, thoughts, and feelings are thrown into the mix. Furthermore, determining who exactly will be a part of the group can be a difficult choice. Are representatives from each of the “stakeholders” good enough? Can one person really represent the thoughts and feelings of a whole group? For example, can one teacher present the needs, wants, and desires of a whole teaching staff? Or can one parent really express the concerns of all parents?<br />Furthermore, to have successful collaboration, leaders must not monitor the group too closely, or fail to delegate significant work. They must allow the team to take action to make decisions a reality, while maintaining their role as cheerleader, resource provider, and/or negotiator. Individual differences of the group will require leaders to display flexible leadership to reach out to people in different ways, as each requires. Leaders should be aware that not every team is an effective team, and they must work to ensure that the members of teams take positives steps to ensure their own effectiveness. Leaders should support the responsibility of each individual in a group, and encourage groups to have clear roles for all members.<br />Through this, I still have questions. What if leaders do not take collaboration seriously? What if they do not actually listen and implement a group’s ideas? What if collaboration continues to be just for show, as is frequently the case? Leaders, if they truly believe in collaboration, must make every effort to be legitimate in the task, or we will not be able to call them a leader. They must model the way for their followers, because as we often forget, if we are not good role models, no matter what we say or do, people may not follow us. Leaders need to think, not only of themselves, but of the common good.<br />At this point, I must also ask myself more questions. What if followers do not want to be empowered? What if they do not want to participate in groups? What if they have no interest in “pulling their weight” or “giving their input”? What if they do not want to give up their limited time as is necessary to make collaboration work? I know that for me, as a teacher, I feel like I already go to meeting after meeting, and at times I just want someone to tell me what to do so I can do it. So what does a leader do then? What if, after a leader’s collaboration effort, followers still do not feel their input has any influence? And finally, what if a leader simply is not willing to give up power? Personally, I see collaboration as a useful tool, albeit not always as effective in reality as we would like it to be. So, knowing that, knowing the difficulties that lie ahead, why would a leader who does not already believe, want to change? My hope is that they would only do so if it were for the good of the whole, that they would not start collaboration for selfish reasons, and that they would not back away from collaboration for selfish reasons either.<br />The need for transition during change is the final concept that is important to me, and therefore central to my leadership philosophy. According to William Bridges and Susan Mitchell: (2000, p. 2), “Transition is the state that change puts people into. The change is external, while transition is internal.” Transition allows for the opportunity to move forward with change by providing an understanding of the past, present, and future.<br />First, leaders should demonstrate how to let go of the way things were. This may present another challenge for me as a leader because I know that I sometimes have difficulty letting go of the past, a place where I felt safe and successful, and opening myself up to potential “failure” because I do not know what lies ahead. Leaders should plan and describe the changes carefully, and have someone responsible for each detail. A timeline should also be created and shared, along with establishing a general communication plan to explain the changes (Bridges & Mitchell, 2000).<br />Next, it is necessary for the leaders to coach the staff through times where there is uncertainty and confusion. I feel like being a coach will help me greatly in this aspect. I can treat my staff like my players. During this time, followers will be trying out new ideas, and will experience both highs and lows in the process. During the “highs” they will want to move forward as quickly as possible, however, during the “lows” they will want to return to a practice that is safe. The leadership should support staff members who feel “failure” during this time, and help to keep them on track. Leaders must provide the followers with communication (rather than simple information dissemination) that emphasizes a concern for them (Bridges & Mitchell, 2000). This is another point where I feel challenged. I like to deal with facts, and therefore have difficulty with uncertainty. To be a successful leader, I must be willing to support myself, or find someone to support me, when I feel failure. I think it will be important that I share these fears and struggles with my followers as well, not to make them feel worse, but to help them recognize that they are not alone.<br />Finally, the followers will need reassurance as they move forward and begin a new path. Leaders will be responsible for launching the new beginning by articulating the attitudes and behaviors needed to make the changes work – and then modeling, providing practice in, and rewarding those behaviors and attitudes (Bridges & Mitchell, 2000). This will be a key point for leaders if they want to feel successful in the change process. We often see leaders who, once the change has been implemented, simply let go. In actuality, this is a point where followers need them most. They will need someone to look up to, to show them the way, to demonstrate how things are different now than they were before.<br />For quite some time, I thought that a leader was just that – someone who leads others in a particular direction. But, now I have more questions. Who determines that direction? What happens when people do not want to follow? Is a leader then still a leader? Charles Handy says, “The very reluctance to change ultimately turns success into failure” (Handy, 2002, p. 1). Transitioning forward by asking tough questions and giving up long-held assumptions, is a critical step toward change for leaders and followers alike (Senge, 1996). Leaders must trust that by providing clarification of the goal, and allowing for a higher level of personal involvement, people will become interested in the issue and establish a culture of shared decision-making. In doing so, they must become aware that disagreement over what is right or wrong, good or bad, is a part of the process when decisions are made by people with differing backgrounds, perceptions, aspirations, and values. The challenge becomes balancing those differences to do what is right for the whole. The pay-off will be that the decisions that are made, and the actions taken, are then a result of the strengths and differences of individuals.<br />In conclusion, all of these aspects of leadership are built on relationships that are made. It is important to make relationships with your staff so that you build trust, and they know that you have the school’s best interest in mind. Furthermore, it is important to build relationships with other local administrators. Sometimes being an administrator can be a lonely job. So it is important to have people that understand that position that you can call for advice. Finally, you must demonstrate respect for staff and others and they will return the respect for you and your decisions.<br />Work Cited<br /> Allen, K. E., Bordas, J., Robinson Hickman, G., Matusek, L. R., & Whitmire, K. J. (1998). Leadership in the twenty-first century. Rethinking Leadership Working Papers. Academy of Leadership Press. Retrieved May 2002 from:<br />Bennis, W. (1997). " The Secrets of Great Groups." Leader to Leader, No.3. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Bridges, W. & Mitchell, S. (2000). " Leading transition: A new model for change." Leader to Leader, No.16. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Handy, C. (2002). “Elephants and Fleas: Is Your Organization Prepared for Change?” Leader to Leader, No. 24. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Herringshaw, D. (1999, Summer). Team Building. Leadership Link. Ohio State University Leadership Center. Retrieved June 2002 from:<br />Hock, D. (2000). “The Art of Chaordic Leadership”. Leader to Leader, No. 15. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Meyerson, D. (2002). “Everyday Leaders: The Power of Difference”. Leader to Leader, No. 23. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Seifter, H. (2001). “The Conductor-less Orchestra”. Leader to Leader, No. 21. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Senge, P. (1996). “The Ecology of Leadership”. Leader to Leader, No. 2. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Spears, L. C. (2002). “On Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders”. The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership. <br />Sturman, C. (2002). " Dare to Dream" . Leader to Leader, No.23. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Wheatley, M. (1997). “Goodbye, Command and Control”. Leader to Leader, No. 5. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />Wheatley, M. (2001). “Innovation Means Relying on Everyone’s Creativity”. Leader to Leader, No. 20. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.<br />