RESEARCH SKILLS AND LEADERSHIP
Updated: Mar 21, 2018
It’s striking to me how useful research skills are for leaders, yet they remain largely undervalued in the leadership literature, which tends to focus on variables of leadership theory and corresponding characteristics.
But the bottom line of leadership is taking and subsequently presenting a position after analyzing the current state of knowledge about a topic and using it as the basis to defend that position. For the researcher it’s referred to as a thesis.
The knowledge the researcher gains from studying a topic defines the research problem for further study. It’s simply a cycle of inquiry that eventually leads to drawing conclusions based on examination and analysis.
The cycle of inquiry process is the foundation of strategic planning. Learn everything you can about the organization and draw conclusions based on that knowledge. It’s simple. What isn’t simple is operationalizing the strategy for effective and sustainable change. In education, change is not generally embraced due to our fickle history of impulsive change. There is also a dearth of change agents in education. Many have been blunted by mounting opposition and have simply given up on trying to bring about systemic reform. After all, many a reform effort has been thwarted by people who like their cheese exactly where it is, effectively emasculating any hope of real reform.
Effecting and sustaining long term and systemic change is the job of a leader.
Those who succeed at this monumental task are bold, supported, and committed to changing the trajectory of students who otherwise would be mired in the mediocrity of average school districts that function at a perfunctory level, as most districts do (the reason is institutional barriers that are immutable to change).
A strategic plan can effectively function to change a culture that is mired in mediocrity (or if not mediocrity, then zero-growth) if capacity is built and nurtured to grow. I’ve learned that readiness is critical for organizations in the social sector. Many well thought and strategic plans have failed due to the leaders not accurately measuring the climate for change. The organization must be ripe for change. A leader with research skills can effectively evaluate the conditions of an organization and determine when and if change will flourish.