As part of my online masters, I am developing a series of blog posts to act as an e-portfolio. My love of good GIF and a task of categorizing the different model of leadership lends itself well to this post.
I’m not sure any principal would like the comparison and Frank Underwood would likely never keep his teacher’s registration, but he is a master student in the art of politics. Likewise, traditionally an instructional leader is a master in the art of pedagogy. Instructional Leadership is about being present in the school with a laser focus on improving learning. Again Underwood, as this meme suggests is someone, who wants to know what’s going on. Where perhaps this GIF falls down is that Underwood is a politician yet a principal, although part of the school and a teacher themselves, is not teaching. Is there an inherent tension in instructional leadership whereby the one leading change is not necessarily in the classroom keeping their practice current? Can an effective understanding of the latest pedagogy and practice come through observing and conversing with others? Or does an instructional leader need to grow others leaders?
Distributed Leadership is about building a team and unleashing their talents. While this can create space to unleash talents, without effective structure and systems people could be moving directions. Tim Gunn gives ample space for designers to do their thing, ‘make it work people.’ But those results can sometimes lead some to fashion disasters. Which gets to an important question in schools about the question of how tolerant a community is to educational-risktaking: is failure something to be avoided at all costs or is failure an inevitable part of learning? With a bit of coaching a fashion faux pas can turn into something fabulous. Does the vague questioning and connecting with others mean that turn the vision of the school into a reality? Or does a more cohesive vision and modeling of that vision make it more tangible for school community?
Is this the sweet spot between the two earlier leadership models? A key aspect of transformative school leadership is inspiring others to accomplish more than they thought possible. This support can happen through mentoring, coaching, and serving as a role model for other teachers. The use of coaching, where leaders (or anyone in the school with coaching expertise), are helping teachers to see beyond their current cognitive map to extend their learning is a key feature of this leadership model. Where it differs from distributed leadership is that there is a greater emphasis on connecting actions to the overall vision of the school.
What model is best? The answer perhaps is ‘it depends’ on the context of the school. Where perhaps there are academic concerns about student learning then there needs to be more of a focus on learning where instructional leadership is important. However, where perhaps there is a need for schools to re-think what they are doing a transformative or distributed approach would be more improtant.