Monday, April 18, 2016

Education Management and School Leadership

The concept of educational leadership has emerged with the rapidly changing dynamics of education in schools. Schools that were just confined to textbook teaching, awarding degrees or certificates have turned into leading organizations and knowledge warehouses. The understanding that the quality of leadership makes a notable difference to the school, has made educational management and school leadership synonymous to each other. Trained and dedicated teachers are the building blocks of a school nevertheless effective leadership is the axis of quality education. An effective school can nurture growth, learning, creativity, optimism, curiosity, conscientiousness etc., owing to the consistency of a positive and assertive leader. This leader does not only change variables inside the school but also outside, in the society, combating the prevalent challenges supporting the widespread belief of society being congruent to school. Effective school leadership can manage and tackle all the emerging issues. To a great extend, the reformatory approach accepted by the leader chaperons the change.
While earning a degree in the field of education, a teacher is imparted subject specific knowledge. Little do the designers of the curriculum realize that the need is related to the interaction and interpersonal relations with society, parents, students, and all other stakeholders, notwithstanding the fact to include life skills to impart and equip the students with it. Now the question of an ideal school arises, along with effective learning practices. The Gareth Morgan1 model of school organization (though apparently obsolete) still exists with a few reforms. Out of the three models i.e. Bureaucracy, Social Systems or Community, no model can be claimed to be the best one. Bureaucratic organizations transfer authority from one person to a committee, maintain extensive records of students academic work and behavior, while exercising external control over classroom teaching. Values that sweep through this model are efficiency, controlled supervision and regularity.  As there is a defined hierarchy hence there are clear and uniform methods. The Systems Theory practices the concept of feedback for self regulation and yielding a product. Systems theory thrives on the value of cooperation with a human touch of collegiability and flexible roles. The third and the most important model is Communitarian, based on the values of care and concern for others well being. Every member of the school is approachable regardless of status. 
Leading is an active process and leadership is multidimensional. Potential leaders recognize, analyse, assess and then act. However, this carrot needs to be nibbled fast as minutes spent planning can save hours while execution. The shift in the role from a ‘boss’ to ‘coach’ fulfils the present leadership style. Before discussing about the leadership styles and roles, it is imperative to build a leader within by initiating, coordinating, communicating ,recognizing, resolving and most importantly building a team. The study of leadership and group dynamics states about a “Team Development Wheel’’, which has four stages. Stage one refers to “forming” indicating polite, impersonal, watchful and guarded behaviour. The second stage shifts to “storming’’ denoting difficulties, opting out, controlling conflicts and confronting people. “Norming” is the third stage moving towards getting organized , developing skills, establishing procedures, giving feedbacks and confronting issues. The fourth and the final dimension is “performing”, relating to resourcefulness, flexibility, being close and supportive.
In fact, from a veteran to a novice, leadership styles may differ as needed. The leader will have to be justified in selecting the style. In situational leadership, it is known as Directive behaviour and Supportive behaviour. Directive behaviour concentrates on ‘what’ and ‘how’. It involves telling and showing people what to do, how to do it, when to do it, monitoring performance and providing feedbacks on results. It also develops confidence in others. Supportive behaviour focuses on developing an individual’s commitment and initiative. It develops positive attitude towards the goal or task. Listening, facilitating, self reliant problem solving, encouraging and involving others in decision making are a few examples of this style. By placing these two styles on a horizontal and vertical axis, four combinations of leadership styles emerge from it. Style one ‘Directing’ consists of High Directive behavior and Low Supportive behavior. In this, the leader provides specific instruction about achieving goals. He supervises closely, the individual’s performance and by defining, teaching, showing, planning, prioritizing and monitoring, the task is accomplished. The feedback further reinvents the goal. The second style stated is High Directive and High Supportive, also termed as ‘Coaching’. Here, the leader explains decisions, solicits suggestions from the individuals, praises progress and continues to direct task accomplishment. Though individual inputs are considered but the final say is of the leader. By sharing feedback, encouraging and redirecting, the task is taken to the next level. According to Leadership and Group Dynamics2, the third style is ‘Supporting’, Low Directive and High Supportive category, in which the leader reassures, collaborates and facilitates self reliant problem solving. Style four is ‘Delegating’, which is a combination of Low Directive and Low Supportive behaviour. The leader empowers the individual to act independently and provides the appropriate resources to get the job done. Here, most of the decisions are made by the individual. In all four styles, the leader, clarifies expectations and goals, observes and monitors performance and gives feedback.
Giving and receiving feedback is an art of communication through which the future course of action is determined lest it should be offered in a manner that is acceptable and useful to the receiver. An atmosphere of cooperation in a collective undertaking can make the feedbacks productive. When providing feedback, it should be descriptive and non judgmental. Also it is observed that it should be provided close to the event so as to maintain its preciseness. Giving feedback is meaningful only when that person is willing to relate to it and change the phenomena. Formulating feedback in specific rather than general terms, will give optimum results. On the other hand, while receiving feedback, the subject can help the observers by encouraging them to express their observations. The observers’ comments are best understood by linking them to specific events that occurred. Also mutual understanding and cooperation can help construct a healthy learning environment.  
Principal as a leader has to play myriad roles. This might sound exigent however the accountability defines the position. Beginning from transportation, health, faculty, finance to capacity building, public relations or community service, the principal is the link, balancing between the staff and the management, in possession of massive responsibilities. This leadership is educational leadership, meaning thereby, working through and with individuals. So, the school administrator is an initiator, who works laboriously to accomplish simple and complex tasks. He presents well organized plans and is someone who is self-motivated, perceiving details in their proper perspective and organizing them into meaningful plans and programmes.  He is a recognizer, who identifies the strengths and weakness of the subordinates and pushes them to prove their potential.  He takes an insightful approach while dealing with his team. By recognizing them, their problems, thinking, bent and ability, he builds a successful team and never stirs up the hornet’s nest.  Facilitative leadership also comes into play here. The care, concern and helpful nature enables him to gain trust of his team, which helps the team both professionally and personally. As a facilitator, he creates a permissive, accepting and understanding environment in the school by sorting out the problems faced by staff members, ranging from diagnosis to prognosis.    
Considering the educational programmes and evaluation practices, Bloom stated: “The main purpose of formative evaluation is to determine the degree of mastery of a given learning task and to pinpoint the part of the task not mastered. Summative evaluation is directed towards a much more general assessment of the degree to which the larger outcomes have been attained.” Hence, the principal becomes an instructional leader. Finding facts, gathering data, interpreting, generating instructions for guidance and immaculate working ascertains progress. Looking at communication and its various facets, it becomes the greatest source to convince. The leader should be an effective speaker, one who can do impressive public speaking to turn the chimes into his favour. Besides, conveying opinions candidly casts an imprint in the mind of the public that the school is in safe hands. Overcoming the conjectures and hearsays, the school administrator is also a coordinator. He takes the responsibility to coordinate with all of the human resource in school. He encourages people to participate in policy development and planning. The concept of ‘loose’ supervision could be a better idea as he may be aware of the happenings around but does not constantly impose his will in everything. The leader is a financial leader also, with the basic responsibility of reviewing the accounts. As each bill passes through his palm, he needs to possess an eye of accuracy to keep the expenses under control, as, if the finances go wrong, the repercussions are disastrous. Most well defined role of the principal is being a curriculum leader. Though the senior school curriculum is well defined and well designed, yet the leader has to ensure the effective implementation of the same by constant supervision and follow-up. To make certain, the levels of learning to rise, he must adopt innovative pedagogical styles and evaluation methods. Being a social leader is the need of the hour for a school administrator. Establishing the congruence between man and society by stating that society is to man what man is to society, is true here. Social obligations are to be fulfilled to a great extend as the leader is quite dependable, consistent in his disposition and courteous. Social interaction will expand his horizons of understanding the prevailing status of society. Consequently, understanding the child psychology, which makes him a counsellor. He can judge countenances and differentiate between feign and genuine. He can guide and motivate students for being high achievers. Ethical leadership is vital for society’s survival. Receding values in youngsters make it more essential to be taught in the school. The leader through his talks in the assembly or group interactions can trickle the moral values in the nascent minds. Achievement leadership is another jewel in the crown of a leader. Setting challenging goals, both in work and in self-improvement (sometimes together) is it’s descriptor. High standards are demonstrated and expected. The leader shows faith in the capabilities of the follower to succeed. This approach is best when the task is complex. Last but the most important of all is Visionary leadership1. Of course, if the leader has a strong vision, democratic style of leadership will work well to generate fresh ideas to execute that vision. To explore the potential forces or to restructure effectiveness, astute leadership quality will always be the discernible force. Be it institutional planning, competency enrichment or translation of vision into mission, an outstanding leader will never lose the sight of his purpose. Explicit knowledge of Mission and Vision will ensure its effective fulfillment. Visionary leader motivates people by making clear to them how work fits into a larger vision for the organization, explaining them all the standards to achieve it and move towards the grand mission. If the authority shares it strongly with the team, associate, affiliate and assign tasks to the members by identifying their strengths, vision can be converted into mission. Faculty meetings play an imperative role in the accomplishment of mission. They are concerned directly with feedback, whether positive or negative, their professional growth and need along with skilful orientation. Solutions to specific problems are deliberated and discussed. If the agenda of meeting is given prior, the faculty can come prepared, eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on the vital factors of reflection. The administrator, in this situation can adopt a coaching, democratic or authoritative style of leadership. A leader being fluid and lucid can fit into any style. They are exquisitely sensitive to the impact they are having on others and seamlessly adjust their style to get best results, highlighting the factor of emotional intelligence.
In a nutshell, the leader being an alchemist can foster transitions with his conscious, consistent and conditioned manifestations. Association with a higher moral position is motivating and will result in people following a leader who promotes this. Continuous self development, commitment, competency and cooperation are the key words of successful school leadership and education management.

1.     School administration and management by PVV Satya Narayana
2.     Leadership that gets results- Harvard Business Review