Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Case for Shared Leadership

Over the past several weeks I have engaged in a period of reflection on leadership. This reflection resulted from my own desire to refocus for the second half of the school year as well as conversations with people about my own leadership beliefs. Many of these conversations centered around a core leadership debate - should we dictate or facilitate? 

In truth, there is probably no "correct" answer. There are moments where each style of leadership has its merits. I can make a strong case that dictated leadership is necessary in our schools. In a crisis we must be decisive with little time to spare. In the case of a personnel issue we must make decisions based on policy and procedure. However appropriate, these are very specific moments. They are the moments that define our ability to lead but do not define our school. 

So...what is the right leadership for our school?

I believe leadership that facilitates is essential for our schools. Too often we forget that the smartest people we have to solve the issues facing our school are already in our school. Our role as building leaders is to locate those who can provide perspective and help move us forward. The goal is not to stand tall at the end of the day and declare "I solved that." Our goal at the end of the day is to know that we moved forward and will do so again tomorrow and the day after that. 

How do we keep moving forward?

It starts with building the capacity of others. The long term success of a school (or any institution for that matter) is the ability of its people to continually grow in their professional practice. Dictating responses does little to improve others as leaders - rather, it serves to weaken our ability to build shared leadership and capacity. As leaders we must facilitate opportunities for others to lead so that they may grow. We must find opportunities for teachers to be instructional leaders. We must find opportunities for staff members to lead school-based teams. We must find opportunities for parents to be active and engaged voices in our processes. We must find opportunities of students to take a leadership role not just within the student body but the school as a whole. We must be willing to cede control so that others can shape the path forward.

As a leader I strongly believe that we must seek out the best in others to better ourselves and our institutions. Schools only improve when we welcome the leadership of all.