As schools adjust to the expectations of the twenty-first century, not only has there has been a call for new conceptions of leadership and leadership preparation (Bezzina, 2012; Caldwell & Spinks, 2013; Dempster et al., 2011; Levin, 2013; Macpherson, 2009; Schleicher, 2012 in McCulla & Degenhardt, 2016, p.559) but the expectations for today’s school leaders have never been more ambitious (Robinson, 2011, in McCulla & Degenhardt, 2016, p.558). The call is for instructional leaders who can promote better academic outcomes for students, who also have a capacity to build and sustain transformational cultures (Day & Sammons, 2013; Hattie, 2009; Robinson et al., 2009 in McCulla & Degenhardt, 2016, p.559).
It is important then to consider, how can teachers who aspire to (or who are at least considering) formal positions of school leadership be supported in their preparation so as to give insights into the qualities that underpin successful leadership and eventually lead to confident, capable and visionary performance in leadership and ultimately principal roles into the future (McCulla & Degenhardt, 2016, p.559)?
To answer this question, it is helpful to understand what constitutes leadership. The AIS explain leadership as: 'both an inner journey of growing self-awareness and personal mastery, as well as an outer journey of acquisition of appropriate knowledge and skills, and engagement with a range of people and contexts' (AIS, 2013, pp.562-563).
An important and possibly unanswerable question is ‘how much of the knowledge and skills, and the ability to engage with people can be learnt?’ If we believe a large percentage of these skills can be learnt and internalised into an inner journey, it would be helpful to know how far into this learning journey one needs to be before stepping up into a leadership position as there will always be more to be learnt when leading. While these questions are interesting the important thing to note is that many of these skills can be intentionally learnt.
Leithwood et al (2006) divide leadership qualities and skills into four sets:
- vision and values, and setting directions;
- understanding and developing people;
- redesigning the organisation; and
- managing the teaching and learning program (Leithwood et al., 2006, in McCulla & Degenhardt, 2016, p.559).
An OECD report on improving school leadership (2008, p.107) concluded that effective approaches to developing school leaders needed methods and content that incorporated mentoring/coaching, work-based experiential learning, peer support and networking, and formal leadership learning programs (McCulla & Degenhardt, 2016, p.560).
McCulla, N. & Degenhardt, L. (2016). 'Journeys to school leadership'. In Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44 (4): 558–577. DOI: 10.1177/1741143214558574.
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