Term Paper: Leadership Skills Impact International Education

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[. . .] However, many people do not understand what leadership is and how it applies to the school environment. In their 1997 study of visionary companies, James Collins and Jerry Porras define leaders as people who "displayed high levels of persistence, overcame significant obstacles, attracted dedicated people, influenced groups of people toward the achievement of goals, and played key roles in guiding their companies through crucial episodes in their history."

This definition is very much in line with the definitions currently used for school leaders, although this definition has changed in recent years (Education Week, 2004). Until recent years, most research assumed that leadership did not have to come from the school principal (Riordan, 2003). The realization that improving instruction requires shifts in the behavior of school leaders has resulted in a slew of new theories of school leadership and attempts at restructuring school organization. More emphasis is now placed on the complex idea of "distributed leadership" shared by multiple individuals at different levels of the organization (Riordan, 2003).

In this light, Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond (2001) hold that school leadership must be perceived as the cumulative activities of a broad set of leaders, both formal and informal, within a school, rather than as the work of one individual, such as the principal (Education Week, 2004). While the principal may be the top dog in a school, it is in everyone's interests to develop broad leadership capacity in their schools. This "distributive" leadership has a variety of purposes, including expanding expertise across staff members, ultimately deepening efforts for instructional improvement (Supovitz and Poglinco, 2001).

The following chart outlines qualities of a good leader. Because school principals are the leaders of the education provided in primary schools, they must display qualities of good leaders. They protect the reputation of their school by ensuring their staff delivers high quality education. They are the leaders of: the delivery of the curriculum in individual classrooms and at a school-wide level; the assessment of student achievement, innovations and improvements in classroom practices; and the monitoring and evaluation of teacher performance.

What is Effective Leadership?

Group Qualities

Individual Qualities

Shared purpose -- reflects the shared aims and values of the group's members; can take time to achieve

Commitment -- the passion, intensity, and persistence that supplies energy, motivates individuals, and drives group effort

Collaboration -- an approach that empowers individuals, engenders trust, and capitalizes on diverse talents

Empathy -- the capacity to put yourself in another's place; requires the cultivation and use of listening skills

Division of labor -- requires each member of the group to make a significant contribution to the overall effort

Competence -- the knowledge, skill, and technical expertise required for successful completion of the transformation effort

Disagreement with respect -- recognizes that disagreements are inevitable and should be handled in an atmosphere of mutual trust

Authenticity -- consistency between one's actions and one's most deeply felt values and beliefs learning environment -- allows members to see the group as a place where they can learn and acquire skills

Self-knowledge -- awareness of the beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions that motivate one to seek change

SOURCE: Leadership Reconsidered: Engaging Higher Education in Social Change, 2000. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.academy.umd.edu/publications/LeadershipReconsidered/LR%20-%20chart1.doc.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP, 2004) insists "the principal should provide leadership in the school community by building and maintaining a vision, direction, and focus for student learning (Education Week, 2004)." However, NASSP does not think that the principal should act alone. Instead, according to NASSP, all schools should establish a governing council that involves students, parents, and staff members in key decisions to promote student learning and an environment that encourages participation, responsibility, and ownership.

While not responsible for directing all aspects of every activity in a school or district, principals, administrators and other school leaders are more than just managers of staff and budgets (Education Week, 2004). According to a comprehensive analysis of principal and superintendent leadership, most leadership theories and activities have assumed an overly narrow view of leadership, focusing mainly on the immediate support and supervision of teachers' instruction of students (Knapp et al., 2003). However, in practice, school and district leadership translates to creating powerful, equitable learning opportunities for students, professionals, and the system, and motivating or compelling participants to take advantage of these opportunities. School leaders -- including staff developers, district coordinators, and mentor teachers as well as principals and superintendents -- can (Education Week, 2004):

advance powerful and equitable student learning by:

establishing a focus on learning;

building professional communities that value learning;

engaging external environments that matter for learning;

acting strategically and sharing leadership; and creating coherence (Knapp et al., 2003).

According to Education Week (2004):"This framework for school and district leaders is consistent with areas that administrators identify as critical to educational leadership. For example, principals point to leadership needs in seven areas: instructional, cultural, managerial, human resources, strategic, external development, and micro-political (Portin et al., 2003). Similarly, NASSP (2004) has developed a self-assessment instrument for instructional leaders that includes questions about instructional direction, teamwork, problem solving, communication, and skill building."

Due to the impact on school quality and student achievement, developing effective leaders of schools and districts is perceived as a main priority among researchers and policymakers (Education Week, 2004). Many school leaders do not have the leadership skills required to carry out the tasks of improving instruction, according to Richard Elmore (2000), a professor of educational leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Instruction can be improved, according to Elmore, only if school leadership is redefined and changed to include the idea of distributed leadership.

Unfortunately, an efficient way to develop educational leaders has yet to be discovered (Education Week, 2004). As noted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington (Portin et al., 2003), "A 'one-size-fits-all' posture toward leadership training or methods and styles of school leadership serves neither principals nor schools well. Different schools have different leadership needs, and policy and practice need to support a variety of leadership models (Portin et al., 2003)."

According to Frederick Hess (2003), leadership, in education and in various other sectors, lacks concrete benchmarks to measure school leaders for adequacy (Education Week, 2004). Thus, says Hess, states must remove most licensure requirements for principals and superintendents to give promising leaders from other fields an opportunity to provide effective leadership.

A literature review conducted by the National Governors' Association (NGA) draws attention to the fact that there may be a limited supply of talented candidates to lead schools and districts, causing a major shortage (Mazzeo, 2003). Separate research, observing that claims of a national shortage of principals appear overstated, reveals that the number of openings is expected to increase by 20% over the next five years and the number of retirements will probably increase significantly, according to statistics (Education Week, 2004). This shortage is especially true for international schools, as faculty tends to have high turnover rates and leaders are often ill prepared to handle the heavy demands of an international http://www.edweek.org/context/topics/gallery/spacer.gif

This study aims to produce a model of effective leadership in an international school setting. This study has two major purposes. The first purpose is to examine international schools to demonstrate how the requirements of effective leadership in an international school setting are unique. The second purpose is to examine which character and behavioral traits of leaders that facilitate the creation of an effective leader-follower relationship in an international educational setting.

Statement of the Problem

Despite the importance of good leadership for international schools, there is a lack of research that specifically links these two concepts and explores these relationships in depth. The requirements of effective leadership in an international school setting are unique and should be addressed. Such a study could fulfill the useful purpose of further clarifying these relationships in the context of school leadership and enable the researcher to create an effective model for leadership that can be used by international school leaders.

Rationale

The literature review on leadership indicates the significance of interpersonal relationships, for effective leadership. The study is based on the proposition that school leaders in international school settings are especially in need of strong interpersonal skills, due to the nature of the environment. It is proposed that school leaders should be characterized by authenticity, respect, empathy and effective communication, which will ultimately lead to self-actualization and personal growth of followers (teachers, students, parents) and the ability of the followers to take up leadership opportunities on their own. The outcomes of the study are expected to add to the theoretical understandings of the nature of the leader-follower relationships, and how they operate in the field of educational leadership, with an emphasis on international education. They could also have a positive impact on the way in which educational systems define the role of the principal and select people for that leadership role. It may also assist systems and universities in preparing people for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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