I believe that we need leadership in schools today that is grounded in real values, not just ones that are quoted glibly and so often that their meaning is muted and dulled. In these days where the score on one test is used to measure how much a student has learned, how well a teacher teaches, and how effectively a school is run, there is a need for a clear vision and mission for schools that educators can passionately believe in and strive to achieve. Transformational leadership can help teachers become empowered in these times where their professionalism is diminished and disparaged and their efforts are depreciated.
In transformational leadership, principals and administrators act as mentors; they listen to concerns and needs. They know the difference between “urgent” and “important.” The leaders keep communication open, they show respect and celebrate the contributions that teachers make as they struggle each day to provide an effective program for their students. With this kind of care, teachers feel respected and can reflect on how best to accomplish the important goals of their responsibility to the children.
Transformational leaders challenge the conventional wisdom of legislatures and other “non-educators” about what is best for education. Because they are grounded in values that they believe in, they are able to stimulate their teachers to take risks, to think independently and, as Bill Asher suggests, practice “creative sabotage” in support of what is best for their students. Because transformational leaders believe in their teachers, they understand the need for individualized care of students. They work with teachers to encourage their creativity and help them to transform their classrooms into places where students are engaged and excited about their learning and are encouraged to wonder. Transformational leaders expect high standards of achievement, but understand that teachers’ most important role is to teach children, not curriculum. In fact, transformational leaders hold the highest standards of excellence for their teachers and for the students in their schools. They know what they do encourages creativity and the need for children to wonder.
Transformational leaders pride themselves on ethical behavior that embraces diversity, seeks educational equity for all and creates a school community that thrives in respect and trust. As I observe many students in different schools I look for schools that exhibit the caring, respect and trust that are evident when schools have a leader who prides his community, who helps his teachers be the best they can be, who empowers all staff, not just a select few, with the responsibility to develop a collaborative school culture that is able to problem solve together, reach consensus (that is, all can agree that solutions can be found that all can live with ethically and professionally). Collaboration is not compromise; it is finding solutions to difficult problems that couldn’t be solved by one person alone. Transformational leaders work smarter, not harder. They seek to understand all perspectives in order to effect solutions that can be embraced by all. In order for this to occur, transformational leaders provide their staff with the time to talk together, to work together so that all are collectively responsible for decisions and continuous improvement programs that are needed by our children. Are you a transformational leader?