Published on


Dr. David E. Herrington, Invited Guest Editor, NFEAS JOURNAL, 30(3) 2013
Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief (Since 1982)

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNALVOLUME 30, NUMBER 3, 201350LEADER AS MENTOR & COACH:CREATING A CULTURE OFEXCELLENCE AND DIGNITYDavid E. Herrington, Ph.D.Professor and Coordinator of Leadership ProgramsTexas A&M University-San AntonioABSTRACTAdult pro-social behavior in school settings and exemplary performance bystudents on a campus are related. They hold in common a thread of expectationin which ethical thinking and behavior are articulated, modeled, coached, andconsistently promoted by the leader. When a proactive, ethical school culture isconceived, created and maintained, bully-free work places come into existence.This is the kind of place where principals can lead a focused, collaborative workgroup that yields the highest levels of productivity and excellence. Expectationsof what one is able to achieve and what behaviors are expected to take placemake all the difference. In the words of former football coach Mike Leach“You’re either coaching it, or allowing it to happen” (Leach, 2011, p. 136).Leadership matters when it comes to shaping cultures that value the dignity ofthe individual, social justice, and excellence of thought and action.IntroductionThe principal of a school campus makes a difference. Theprincipal sets the tone. The principal determines whether the campus isa supportive and caring place or one that is hostile and divided. Theprincipal establishes norms of interpersonal communication and trust.Principals have multiple opportunities each day to inspire teachers tohigher levels of effort and learning. They can also discourage anddemotivate teachers. Great principals inspire great teachers when theycreate a safe, dignified workplace where excellence and social justiceare consistently acknowledged and coached. Coaching teachers,
  2. 2. DAVID E. HERRINGTON51leading innovation, achieving turn-arounds have one thing in common-- committed leaders who consistently articulate the differencebetween excellence and mediocrity and who nurture a culture of socialjustice. To change a culture Dodd (2005, March) suggested that theleader let the faculty and staff “know his core values that will guidehis decisions…[and establish] that there will be clear lines ofcommunication” (p. 90). Bass (1985) in his early formulations oftransformational leadership noted the importance of intellectualstimulation, the ability to reframe reality for subordinates.Inspirational leadership he saw as a way to appeal to the better side ofpeople to move them to higher levels of thinking and achievement. Inany case, to create a culture of excellence and social justice involves alot of work. It will not happen by accident. Reframing the context andresetting teachers‟ views of themselves, their students, and the verynature of their work requires multiple influence attempts at manylevels each day.When a leader can inspire a new vision of what is possible,when the mindful leader makes the workplace a safe place tochallenge assumptions and introduce new ways of thinking, thesubordinates are freed to question unproductive processes andprocedures. In a school campus, increased awareness of what ispossible to think and do leads to higher levels of ethical reasoning andcommitment to the welfare and learning of each child. When teachersknow and truly realize that greater effort and commitment will lead tohigher levels of student performance, they will come to understandthat they are improving the quality of their own lives as well as thelives of their students. When the leader as change agent creates aculture that inspires whole-hearted, passionate, committed effort, he isconsidered a transformational leader (Bennis &Nanus, 1985; Bass,1985).During the 1960‟s, like many of my peers, I grew up hearingabout and reading the inspirational writer Norman Vincent Peale. Inhis popular work The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale touted the roleof expectations in bringing about higher levels human achievement:
  3. 3. 52NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNALExpecting the best means that you put your whole heart, thecentral essence of your personality, into what you want toaccomplish. People are defeated in life not because of lack ofability, but for lack of wholeheartedness. They do notwholeheartedly expect to succeed. Their heart isn‟t in it, whichis to say they themselves are not fully given. Results do notyield themselves to the person who refuses to give himself tothe desired results. (Peale, 1952, p. 90 )There is tremendous power in changing the way individuals seethemselves. To set the tone for “what is expected around here” withina campus can be pivotal in how a group comes to function. Teachersas leaders of students come to realize this power. Principals as leadersof teachers have the same power.My understanding of this powerful principle of setting apositive tone of expectation and social justice came during my firstfew weeks of public school teaching. When I first started teaching inthe 1970‟s, it was before inclusion was practiced extensively. We hada tracking system for children that placed them in a “slow learner”track if they had not demonstrated ability to learn things quickly. Thisarchaic system both created and reinforced lack of expectation in whatthe child might capable of achieving. Low expectation affectedteachers, parents, and the children. When children lacked confidencein their ability they came to doubt their value as learners.I will neverforget what happened on my first day in the classroom. It was rightafter lunch in a junior high school that occupied the historic Tivy HighSchool building. My class roster for fourth period was on the rostrumat the front of the classroom. In bold red letters the word„REMEDIAL‟ was stamped at the top of the class roster. As thechildren came in to be seated, I was greeting students as they enteredthe classroom. A young girl, scanning the classroom to see who elsehad been placed in the room with her, blurted out “We‟re the dumbones aren‟t we, teacher?” I was surprised to hear that but also quickto respond, “No,” I said, “You‟re the best class I have!”I am thankfulthat I was ready for that. That statement proved to be prophetic as I
  4. 4. DAVID E. HERRINGTON53structured assignments that were success-oriented, geared to theindividual learner. It was not an easy year but I can say that most daysstudents in this class came excited to start working, knowing that theywould be rewarded for beginning their work on time and ultimately fordoing neat and careful work. They often exceeded their ownexpectations of what they were capable of learning. Parents wereskeptical yet pleased as they came to school just to meet this teacherthat was making a difference in the lives of their children.I had alreadydecided before I met the children to teach them with the sameexpectations as my students in other sections of U.S. History but withan approach that would enable each child to succeed.I never forgotthat lesson of how these children began to question the assumptionsthat they held regarding their own limitations once they wereintroduced to an environment in which they could succeed.Not all my first year teaching experiences were quite somemorable. I learned from my principal, Mr. Jack Murray, one of thegreatest lessons ever for dealing with teachers. He called me into hisoffice to meet with some clearly “irate” parents. In their view I hadbeen overly corrective with their daughter and had not fullyunderstood their child‟s circumstances to their satisfaction. Mr.Murray quickly acknowledged that I was a new teacher. Then he toldthem that he had hired me and that I was a good teacher. He told themthat he trusted me to do the right thing with their child and that hewould support me as the teacher of their child. When the parents left,Jack turned to me and said: “You know? I need to tell you that youcould have handled things differently. But I also want to tell you that Iam glad that you are here. I am glad that I hired you.” I was beingreprimanded but he made it sound inspiring. Then he said “You knowwhat else? You are making some mistakes. But you know what I like?You are making them full speed ahead.” I thought about that later. Ifelt affirmed, trusted, able to take risks. More importantly, I walkedback to my classroom, not dejected or resentful but fully free to reflecton how to work with my students. I went back inspired to continueputting myself into teaching, but ever more wary that I had a lot tolearn. Most importantly, though, I was going to be teaching and
  5. 5. 54NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNALlearning in a safe environment where I was expected to do good workand respect the needs of all students. I never forgot the way that thisformer coach, my principal, Mr. Murray handled the situation that day.Everyone left his office that day a winner. I had experienced a leaderwho knew what he expected from me and who modeled for me theprinciples of excellence, dignity, and social justice.Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence and Passion forExcellence, remembering a television interview he heard regarding thelegendary Notre Damefootball coach Knute Rockne. When asked“How do you motivate your players?” His response: “I don‟t motivatemy players. I try not to de-motivate them. They come with„motivation.‟ I try like the dickens not to switch it off” (Peters,2003, p.288). Leaders within the organization must assume that individualspossess within them, a passion to do good work and an interest indoing the right things. When proven wrong, this must be dealt with butlooking for this traits and acknowledging them goes a long waytoward bringing it out. The leader, therefore, must strive diligently tocreate opportunities for these qualities to manifest themselves.Certainly the leader should avoid condescending or dismissivecomments which only serve to discourage motivation and good willthat already exist within subordinates. Not to heed this advice, leadersrisk demotivating subordinates. If the disrespect is prolonged anddeep, good people will leave anaversive or negative organizationaltogether as matter of self-respect.Building a culture of success goes beyond the issuedemotivating subordinates. It goes beyond raising expectations for selfand others. There must be a daily awareness by all team members ofwhat is considered acceptable behavior and performance and what isnot. The leader must model and communicate expectations, exercisingdiligence, reinforcing behaviors and attitudes that support the culture.Former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach wrote about a timewhen his team lost an important game, playing pessimistic anduninspired on defense. He attributed it to a defensive coach who hadnot bought into the organizational mindset that Leach was trying to
  6. 6. DAVID E. HERRINGTON55create.There were a lot excuses and second-guessing. After giving up600 yards, in a game we lost 49-45, to Oklahoma State, Irealized that a change needed to be made. It had been prettyobvious to others that I‟d been resistant to making the changefor a long time. Ultimately, it was simple. He wasn‟t buyinginto our vision of the program, so he resigned for personalreasons. As soon as Lyle left, I hung up a sign that said,„You‟re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.‟ (Leach,2011, p. 136)Allowing the wrong things to happen in the organization for too longcan kill its culture. The leader must be proactive and courageous tobring about change. W. Edwards Deming, cited in Walton (1986)wrote, “It takes courage to admit that you have been doing somethingwrong, to admit that you have something to learn, that there is a betterway” (p. 223). Phyllis Sobo also cited by Walton noted, “Topmanagement must feel pain, and dissatisfaction with past performance,and must have the courage to change” (p. 223).A healthy organizational culture must be nurtured, preached,coached, and defended at all costs. Coaching by the leader is notmerely the monitoring of a subordinate. Coaching is leading,encouraging, redirecting, building the spirit and courage of asubordinate to try new behaviors. Monitoring, on the other hand, issimply observing and noting mistakes or deviations from a standard.Monitoring involves technical skills while coaching involvesinterpersonal skills. While monitoring can be useful, it cannot replaceor substitute for coaching. Monitoring without coaching makessubordinates timid and resentful; coaching empowers them and buildscapacity for risk-taking and success.Finally, organizational culture matters. It is tied directly tostudent achievement and other organizational outcomes. The campusleader is the catalyst that makes this happen. What the principal does
  7. 7. 56NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNALas a moral and ethical leader is critical to building a strong andpositive learning climate. Conversely, what the leader fails to say anddo consistently permits or even encourages the culture to degenerateinto one that tolerates meanness and mediocrity. Ultimately the idealgoal for a leader is to establish a culture where the subordinate ischallenged and encouraged to create a more civil and productive workenvironment that promotes social justice and commitment toexcellence where teachers can become great teachers and wherechildren and adults feel safe and motivated to perform at their highestpossible level. That is the highest aspiration that a leader can have.
  8. 8. DAVID E. HERRINGTON57ReferencesBass, B. (1985). Performance beyond expectations. New York, NY:Free Press.Bennis, W. G., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: The strategies for takingcharge. New York, NY: Harper and Row.Dodd, A.W. (2005, March). Making change happen: Shared vision, nolimits. NASSP Bulletin, 89(241), 90-92.Leach, M. (2011). Swing your sword. New York, NY: DiversionBooks.Maslow, A. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York,NY: Penguin Books.Peale, N.V. (1952). The power of positive thinking. New York, NY:Simon & Schuster.Peters, T. (2003). Reimagine! London, England: Dorling-KindersleyLimited.Walton, M. (1986). The Deming management method. New York, NY:Perigee Books.