The reality of educational leadership today is that as education, particularly public education, struggles to find its identity among opposing factors such as politics, financial crises, government assessments, and socio-economic trials, there is a crucial need for different leadership paradigms. The change in paradigms can be summarized by realizing five realities:
1. The country-club and authority/obedience managerial styles of running schools are dead. School leaders today MUST be team leaders who can leverage collaborative work, and be a part of it. DuFour, Senge, Chen, and others have all called for reform through shared responsibility and team-centered leadership. This model is seeing vast success nationwide, and it isn’t going anywhere. Veteran school leaders who do not evolve from outdated managerial models risk replacement in favor of team leaders.
2. Education technology is not to be delegated or built into its own silo. Education technology is education. Education leadership is, today, synonymous with educational technology leadership. School leaders need to be innovators and integrators of educational technology. I recommend a book titled What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media by Scott McLeod for all school leaders.
3. Educational leadership is becoming far more about evolution and adaptation than about consistency. For years, the traditionally successful school leader slowly and steady built a school culture built on consistency, routine, and solid expectations. This was a fair model, but it is already becoming dated. While the positive school culture will always be a primary concern, today’s school leader needs to be good at adaptational change. District demographics, diversity, technology, and educational law are all changing faster today than they ever have. Today’s school leaders need to build agile teams that can keep student learning at high levels while negotiating positive change.
4. Education leaders are the best chances American education has for true positive reform. It is no longer acceptable for school or district leaders to watch idly by while politicians and lobbyists decide the future of education. Educational leaders need to lead not just buildings and student bodies, but need to lead the education revolution. If they do not, someone else will. This can easily be done side-by-side with the teaching corps, which adds to the teamwork component as well.
5. Educational leadership is about children. Not teachers, parents, or curriculum. The task of the school principal has become so muddied by the aforementioned factors, that often the central goal of successful school leadership is lost in the shuffle. Every action every moment of every day needs to be to the positive benefit of the students in the school. Sounds easy, but in practice is becoming increasingly difficult. However, the reality is that if the school leader is not looking out for the students, everything else is irrelevant.