HOW IMPORTANT IS A COMMON VISION?
While there have been thousands upon thousands of studies on leadership, there remains no broad agreement on what separates highly effective leaders from less effective leaders. But there are a few common leadership characteristics that highly effective leaders possess, among them is that they are vision-driven. Among the most highly of the highly effective leaders, that vision revolves around creating a common vision built on a foundation of trust and shared ownership of the prize. In education the prize is student achievement.
My recent blog on how to measure effective leaders highlighted the critical role trust plays in creating organizations that can adapt to change. School and learning organizations that lack a coordinated vision of leadership will be plagued by dysfunction and teachers will be well aware of it and exhibit their frustration by retreating. It’s not on teachers. It’s on leaders to create the conditions for teachers to be successful.
Schools are social organizations. Social learning theory explains it best: human behavior is influenced by the continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences.
The social milieu and structure of schools must be fertile ground for the confluence of influences to take root. People learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. If the environment is not designed to optimize this condition, growth is stunted.
The foundation of learning organizations is rooted in social learning theory. After all, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling. It speaks to the importance of cooperation, collaboration, and heterogeneity among social grouping structures in schools, for students and adults. Restructuring efforts in the 21st century has focused on harnessing the benefits of shared leadership and decision-making by structuring schools to maximize teacher leadership. The more teachers assume leadership positions, the stronger the school becomes and the more likely reform efforts will root and become sustainable.
It’s a balanced approach that savvy leaders know requires capacity building. Many leaders over invest in student growth and forget about the growth of teachers. Highly effective leaders invest in the forward movement of schools, and measure it in best teaching practices.
When a leader develops collective responsibility for continuous school wide improvement, teachers internalize goals, support each other, and become strongly committed to the shared vision of the school because they have a vested interest in the outcome.
Highly effective school leaders focus their energy on creating a professional school culture that functions as a collaborative community invested in one thing only: continuous improvement.
Schools cannot improve if teachers do not improve. And teachers cannot improve if leaders are not providing them with the opportunities, support, and resources to grow as professionals. The highly effective leader not only envisions a better future, but fosters it through earning trust, breaking down barriers, and building a focused community of learners.