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  • Writer's pictureAllan J. Mucerino


Is defining yourself as a leader important? Effective leadership borrows from every school of style depending on the situation. Instructional Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Transactional Leadership and Facilitative Leadership styles are most commonly cited by education leaders as their "go-to" style. I choose not to define myself. I have drawn upon myriad styles and consider myself an intentional, intuitive, and situational leader.

As I reflect on my career I have found myself mostly in situations that required restorative leadership – long before the term was ever coined. In the case of my first principalship it was a boundary change that dramatically shifted the demographics of my middle school in Newport Beach and led to White flight, anger in the community, and low morale. In my second principalship it was also a boundary change that led to a disenfranchised student population joining an established and resistant suburban school population. In my third principalship it was an embezzlement that rocked the foundation of the bedroom community school and disturbed its homeostatis.

In my current position as an assistant superintendent it was a long history of neglect and mismanagement that left the district crippled and borderline functional.

To assist readers with a restorative leadership framework I draw upon a common domain of restoration studies – ecosystems. The unique restorative theme among ecosystems is that they recover more slowly following man made damage such as agriculture, deforestation and logging, compared to natural disaster. The same could be said of school districts. For example, poor leadership and poor governance (= man-made) compared to a statewide fiscal crisis (= natural disaster) impact school districts differently.

Whether or not you choose to define yourself as a leader is not as important as how you define yourself as a person. Why? Because who you are acts as sort of a perceptual filter for decision making. Shortly before his death, leadership icon Warren Bennis claimed that his success was a combination of ambition, insecurity, hard-work, and luck. Bennis said, "I’m thinking, I’m not yet serious about this, but it may come that my next book will be called one word – and I’m not a particularly religious person, but the word is a powerful word: it’s Grace. I think that may be just the name for a book which is going to deal with issues of generosity, respect, redemption, and sacrifices. All of which sound vaguely spiritual, but all of which I think are going to be required for leadership."

I agree and add that grace under pressure seperates good leaders from great leaders.


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