Grand Canyon University
Education Leadership in a Changing World
December 17, 2014
On a cold, dreary morning, with unpleasant weather and congested traffic, teachers at a local school make their way into their classrooms to start yet another workday. As they log into their email accounts, reality hits them once again. Over the last several months the school district has asked teachers to supply goal driven data to support their lesson plans and teaching objectives. Test scores are now one of the most important sources of data, and this can be extremely overwhelming. Teachers are feeling pressure from administrators, while administrators are feeling pressure from school board members, government officials, and legislation such as No Child Left Behind. A principal’s job is an extremely difficult one. A principal must answer to community stakeholders, ensure student success, and most importantly, encourage, support, and direct teachers. One of the most crucial aspects of a successful administrator in today’s schools is the ability to enthusiastically motivate and engage staff members in a variety of ways. “In the midst of today’s difficult challenges and high accountability standards, the characteristic of optimism could prove to be a dynamic element to success for educational organizations” (Burns & Martin, 2010, p. 32). If you travel across the country and visit several different schools and interview numerous administrators, you will find that no two schools are alike, and no two educational leaders are identical. However, despite these differences, all school administrators develop a personal style or individual system of leadership that allows his or her school to be successful. According to Bolman and Deal (2002, p. 1) “When you look at examples of effective leadership, it becomes clear that it's not related to any one style, personality, gender, or ethnicity. Many pathways point to effective leadership. But some qualities are consistent across effective leaders.” As a teacher, I have worked with three different principals in the same elementary school. While working with these administrators, I found that each one had his or her own unique style. Nevertheless, each principal had his or her share of successes. When I began teaching five years ago, the principal at the time functioned on an extremely relaxed, “go with the flow” attitude. I would label this administrator’s style as a type of laissez-faire (abdicratic) leadership style. According to Dessler & Starke (2004, p. 29), “These type of leaders would provide very little guidance when dealing with group issues on the expedition and would allow group members to come up with decisions on their own” (Val & Kemp, 2012). Often times seen as an “absent” principal, this administrator would often give little direction or explanation to the staff, often leaving his decision making duties to others. This caused several misunderstandings, as staff members were often confused about expectations within the school. On a personal level this administrator was well liked, but those working for this principal often slacked off on their duties and the school success suffered. Standardized tests scores were down, student behavior was atrocious, and staff morale at an all time low. In addition, it was clear that this administrator had “favorites” which created unnecessary tensions among the staff.
Shortly after this laissez-faire administrator retired, a second was hired. Similar to the first principal, he was also well liked, but much more respected. The second principal strongly vocalized his expectations and procedures, but allowed for collaboration and discussions to improve the school. Of course the principal had the final say, but all certified staff members had input in the decision making process. I would label the second principal as democratic/participative. This method