Role of School Leader in School Development: A Visionary & Innovative Approach

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Hari Singh K.C. photo
Hari Singh K.C.

Hari Singh K.C.
Asst. Campus Chief
Southwestern State College

Visionary Leadership and Management

Leadership is the fulcrum of an institution and everything relies on it. Leadership is a skill where leader leads through example, influence and decision. Developing leadership is a long process and can take a concrete shape over a long period of time. Leadership is a process by which a person influences, inspires, motivates and directs the activities of people to help achieve group or organizational goals. Leadership has more to do with development and growth of an institution for which a leader must be capable, creative and visionary. Therefore, the approach of a leader should be guided more by a new vision and innovation than it is required in the management of an organization. Managers require to be adept at the optimal management of human and other resources of an organization. For achieving this objective, they may have to exercise a certain degree of control for keeping things in order and people in place.  So, management has less to do with dreams and visions and more to do with the management of existing human and other resources. The vision of an institution is its blueprint for what it wants to be and where it wants to go in future. The work culture of an institution and the vision of its leadership go hand in hand for the desired and timely realization of its goals. A vision without culture may not take an institution anywhere. 

Different levels of leadership process

There are different levels of leadership depending on motivation people have for following the path shown by their leader. People follow because they have to and the leader is right. People follow because they want to make a good professional relationship with the leader. People follow because as a leader you have worked for the organization in a result oriented way. People follow because they know what you have done for them and the organization. Also, people follow because they know who you are as a leader and what and who you represent. The relationship among the stakeholders is the foundation of school leadership. School principals have to go to the community to meet people and connect with them. As leaders, they should know how to connect with the parents, guardians, as well as their sub-ordinates.

How to develop leadership capacity by school leader

The success of a school relies heavily on the capacity and quality of its principal. School leaders must know how to change the negative momentum and energies of their subordinates into positive momentum and energies. As school leaders, it is their responsibility to identify what is negative or what is positive. They should also find out their weaknesses and what people want and expect from them. They should be a good listener, and should remain open to learning new ideas. Planning and predetermining the change is very necessary. It is also necessary to adjust organizational priorities and to lay out the step clearly for implementing those priorities. After going into action, it is both desirable and necessary to review progress on a daily basis. Besides, a leader must realize that doing everything worthwhile is similar to performing an uphill task and self-discipline is the key to it. It is impossible to get a success without self-discipline as it helps to turn good intentions into good actions. It is self-discipline that makes sustainable success possible. Furthermore, it enables leaders to create consistency in them and among the people with whom they have to work. Thus self-discipline is the heart and soul of good leadership.

Guide to growth through a cultivation of leadership qualities:

For a leader, to grow both individually and organizationally, there has to be the cultivation of certain leadership qualities. A leader has to shift from positional perspective to a perspective that emphasizes on potentiality. There should be more focus on relationship than rules. Leaders have to know that how effectively they lead and how they connect with people is important than their title or position. It is desirable to focus on the vision or predetermined goals of an organization. Leaders should always be ready to learn new things. If they do not know and generate something new they should be honest and frank enough to express that in front of the people. A leader must have right attitude toward people. A leader needs to stress self-awareness, self-image, self-honesty, self-improvement, and self- responsibility. Listening to people is very vital and leaders should also evaluate where they are with the team. They should not work alone but should take responsibility for energizing other people. First and foremost, a leader has to recruit the best people for the growth and development of an organization. Commitment to spending time needed for the development of leadership is highly essential. A leader should always be interactive and approachable to other people and the stakeholders of the institution. Remaining humble and teachable is equally important. As leaders may not remain in an organization forever, they should have the foresight and a plan for bestowing legacy and succession in the organization after his/her departure.

School leadership skills:

The success or failure of an organization depends on knowledge, skills and strategies of its leader. So a principal, being the leader of a school, should think very seriously about what skills and knowledge as well as what vision and strategies to implement. Leaders have to be visionary and strategic; they should focus on customers, political skills, policies, motivation, and confidence and trust. All of these are related to external awareness. In addition to this, leaders should value and cultivate creative and analytical thinking. It is a good idea for them to prioritize accountability, interpersonal relationship, oral and written communication. These skills are related to influence and negotiation. Team building is equally important and for it, a leader has to focus on network/partnership/alliances, self-direction, decisiveness, problem solving, review and change, and preparation of future leaders. These skills are related to network and partnership building. A leader should also have self-confidence and nurture ethical values. According to modern practice, leaders have to follow the principles of 80/20 rule. This means that they have to go into action for 20% of their total time and focus on the achievement of results for 80% of the time.

Organizational leadership:

Working as a school principal comes under organizational leadership which plays a central role in the evolutionary development of an organization. School principals can affect change in an organization by their visions and strategies. They have to make prediction, essential alterations and create an environment of commitment and dedication for teachers and the entire team. This can go a long way in the achievement of goals and sustainable development of the organization.

Visionary school leadership:

The vision of an organization is a vivid picture of the future which it has dreamt of for itself. It is an ability of a leader to predict and perceive the future in a precise and accurate way along with defining a route map to move to the envisioned future successfully. Developing a good vision is a matter of leadership competencies. It affects organizational performance and includes vision, goal setting, interpersonal skills, and self- knowledge. The development and growth of an organization are based on dedication and commitment of the team and only team work and team spirit can make things happen. Quality of the vision of a leader determines the motivation level of the organization. Vision plays an important role in producing a positive and meaningful change by helping to direct, align, and inspire actions on the part of a large number of people. Without an appropriate vision an organization’s effort for change dissolves into incompatible and confusing projects.

Innovative school leadership:

A visionary school leader does not only have dreams but also knows how to put those dreams and ideas into reality. This is the main difference between dreamers and leaders. In an age of uncertainty, schools and organizations may have to face unexpected and unwanted circumstances anytime. This highlights the need for capable leadership that can sense unexpected conditions before time and can cope with them by their innovative approach. The innovative approach of a leader can be defined as an ability to think, decide, and act in a new or unique way. This new approach leads to sustainable success and helps in formulating a better school strategy for a desirable future of the organization. Through this art of innovation a leader can respond to market and technological challenges. 

School leader as a role model:

School principals are a role model who set examples for others to follow. They should be familiar with the curricula and assessment methods aligned with international standards, national educational related issues and teaching and learning pedagogy. They must know how to recruit the best people, how to position the right people in right place, how to model other leaders, how to help others do their jobs well, how to enable people to succeed, how to develop and empower and then how to evaluate the human resources of an organization. A school leader influences teacher performance, team effectiveness, interrelationship, social exchange, commitment, and optimism for future. School leaders have to demonstrate a friendly and trusting relationship among teachers and students. They should use soft approaches like suggestions, consultations, and counseling to prevent unethical behaviors, attitudes and approaches.  They should posses the quality of care, openness, honesty, fairness and trusting relationships with teachers, staff, and parents.  They have to keep their doors open for school members so they could approach them in need. They have to create a sound environment based on admiration, harmony, freedom, and respect. They should be appreciative and try to nurture the values of equity and justice among all. On top of everything, school leaders have to be accessible to all school members in times of need. 

Downside and upside of school leadership:

A school principal should be mindful of what qualities to nurture and what to avoid. Self-centeredness can cause leaders to neglect the development of people and staff. Short-sidedness can keep leaders from seeing the need for people’s development.  Lack of commitment can keep leaders from doing hard work for people’s development. A leader has to avoid these things. Leaders should always bring clarity and reality to their vision. They have to create momentum and increase the energy level. They must focus on the value of each person and make work more enjoyable. At the same time, they should recognize other people’s potential and act as mentors for leaving a positive legacy behind and for planning future succession. These things form the core of upside leadership.

Conclusion:

Teachers will be happy and content if they are sufficiently and democratically involved in the decision making process of the school. Knowledge of educational management is a necessity for school leaders to enable them to operate from a more informed position. School management places leaders in different situations and therefore they cannot apply wholesale management style in all situations and at all times. School leadership can be improved by appointing those teachers to these positions who have learnt educational management formally. School leaders themselves should practice distributive leadership if they are to receive cooperation from teachers, students, and concerned stakeholders. Leadership improvement can also be made by leaders who see and treat followers as colleagues in the leadership process by distributing leadership among them according to their capabilities. School leaders should be fair among the staff. They should listen to their personal problems affecting their work or their work related problems and provide suggestions on how to overcome those problems. Leaders should be trustworthy because trust and ethics are the foundation of leadership. They should have competency in domains like policy and direction; people and relationship; resource and operation; instruction and achievement; personal effectiveness; and change and innovation. As school leaders, they should not only focus on the intellectual development of students, teachers, leaders and other personnel but also prioritize ethical, social, financial, emotional, and cultural values and dimensions. They have to know how to influence the commitment of members of the organization. They should think about their job satisfaction and job autonomy. Attention should also be paid to leader-member exchange quality, team effectiveness, shared decision-making, innovation and creativity.

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