Develop Leadership

I was thrilled to discover this morning that Stephen Downes took the time to leave some very thorough feedback for me. He is at times hard hitting (and in this case apologizes in advance), but it’s good stuff. There are some things I can’t do anything about in the context of this paper (for instance he dislikes the form of citations and the past tense, which are demanded by the APA style – at least at Walden University… as I understand it), but he also calls me on my vague language, lack of focus, and other items I can certainly improve on.

I also really appreciated the encouragement from Roger Stack on my last post as well. This is much more motivating than writing in isolation and sending a draft to my advisor.

I feel I need to put together a more in-depth response to Stephen, and I certainly need to spend some time sorting out what criticisms I want to act on, but for the time being I think it is more productive for me to keep going so I can get a draft of this done. So, I’ve been writing again this morning…

Bellow is the last section on Facilitating Organizational Change. (Sections on Overcoming Resistance will follow). I found this section on leadership particularly difficult to cull down to two pages. This is much closer to four… and so makes an even longer blog post. If you’re taking these in, thanks for reading. I look forward to any additional feedback… Stephen’s certainly opened the door to criticisms, so let ’em fly if you have em.

5. Develop Leadership

Fullan writes that he knows of no school that has improved without strong leadership (Fullan, 2001b, p. 141). Both personal and collaborative learning are necessary for organizational change, but even these two are not sufficient without strong leadership. Change agents who hope to bring about positive change in schools must also take steps to develop leadership at all levels of their organization. Senge, Evans, and Fullan each share in this belief.

Senge’s (1990) thoughts on leadership began with a simple core strategy: “be a model. Commit yourself to your own personal mastery” (p. 173). However, Senge expected much more of a leader. He was interested in “leaders who have a sense of vision… [and] communicate that in such a way that others are encouraged to share their visions” (p. 212). The leader’s new work, according to Senge, is to serve as a designer (of the ship, rather than as captain, p. 341), as a steward (p. 345), and -most importantly – as a teacher (p. 353). With regards to systems thinking, he believes that “leaders should especially focus on understanding the limiting processes that could slow or arrest change” (Senge et al., 1999, p. 8). With a focus on “leadership communities rather than hero-leaders” (p. 16), Senge et al. recommend developing leadership at all levels, including local line leaders (p. 16), internal networkers or community builders (p. 17), and exectutive leaders (p. 18). Under his new model of educational leadership, leaders are responsible for the engaging the members of the organization, providing systems thinking, and leading learning (Senge et al., 2000, p. 412-418).

Evans (1996) had a similar view of leadership, but he also dealt with the many chronic tensions that leaders must resolve in order to be successful, including managing versus leading (p. 148), resources versus demands (p. 149), the paradox of power – or the dependency of the leader on his followers (p. 150), symbolism versus substance (p. 151), and isolation in a fishbowl, part of the personal toll of leadership (p. 151). Two capacities that leaders need to successfully balance these tensions are “are marketing, to find out what constituents think and want, and public relations, to keep constituents informed about the school’s own goals and needs” (p. 127). What Evans considered authentic leadership also demands integrity in action, personal ethics, vision, belief in others (p. 185), problem solving savvy (p. 190), clarity and focus (p. 206), participation without paralysis (p. 229), recognition of others (p. 254), and a willingness to avoiding avoidance, even if confrontation is necessary (p. 272). In keeping with Fullan’s focus on the moral purpose behind school change, Evans (1996) believed that such authentic leaders derive their authority from two sources, their professional position, and the moral force of their goals (p. 172-173). Further, he believed that “purpose and followership form the heart of transformational leadership” (p. 167). To cultivate both of these, he suggested that “traditional management is to be replaced by shared governance and traditional teacher isolatino by collaboration and collegiality” (p. 231). He later wrote that “no task is more important for a school leader than to be… ‘the voice of the covenant’ – to take primary responsibility for nourishing, celebrating, and protecting the core values and behavioral norms of the school community” (p. 172). Ultimately, “staff must feel that the leader is committed to the change but also to them. Principals, then, need to expect the grief and tolerate the mourning” (p. 201).

Using the language of Senge, Fullan (1993), too, wrote that “the leader’s new work for the future is building learning organizations” (p. 70). To do this, he believed that leaders need to display the personal qualities of hope, enthusiasm and energy (Fullan, 2003, p. 93), while acting from a mind set of “moral purpose, an understanding of the dynamics of change, great emotional intelligence as they build relationships, a commitment to new knowledge development and sharing, and a capacity for coherence making” (p. 93). He explained that:

“leadership, if it is to be effective, has to (1) have an explicit “making-a-difference” sense of purpose, (2) use strategies that mobilize many people to tackle tough problems, (3) be held accountable by measured and debatable indicators of success, and (4) be ultimately assessed by the extent to which it awakens people’s intrinsic commitment, which is none other than the mobilizing of everyone’s sense of moral purpose” (Fullan, 2001a, p. 20-21)

Effective leaders, according to Fullan (2001a), “listen effectively” (p. 123), “don’t panic when things go wrong in the early stages of a major change initiative” (p. 124), and “mobilize the collective capacity to challenge difficult circumstances” (p. 136). Leaders need to be what Fullan (2005) calls energy creators: people who, among other things, “are enthusiastic and always positive… stimulate and spark others… and wish to improve on their previous best” (p. 37). Systems thinking also plays a roll in Fullan’s philosophy on leadership; he calls for “developmental leaders (systems thinkers in action) who do not stand back and conduct passive analysis, but because of their immersion and system perspectives learn to size up situations quickly and intuitively, using concepts discussed in this book” (p. 102). However, effective leaders at the top of an organization cannot fulfill the need for leadership in an organization; “internal commitment… cannot be activated from the top… there must be many leaders around us” (p. 133). What is needed for successful and sustained organizational change is what Fullan calls pervasive leadership, “leadership at many levels of the organization” (p. 137). In fact, Fullan (2003) felt that “we should be selecting leaders in terms of their capacity to create the conditions of other leaders to flourish and make a continuing impact beyond our terms” (p. 106).

In order to provide the highest chances of sustainable success for any challenging change initiative, such as one that aims to integrate video games and simulations into a formal k12 learning environment, each of these elements of leadership should be developed in the organization. Change agents must be sure to develop communities of pervasive leadership, full of leaders who exemplify the disciplines of personal mastery, vision building, and (especially) systems thinking. These leaders, particularly the formal leaders, should develop their authentic leadership style in order to successfully balance the many tensions of leadership, and they must work to build capacity for change by creating energy in others. If new educational technologies are implemented instead through top-down directive, the chance for failure of the initiative is high.

However, even if the realities of change are respected, personal and collective learning are supported, and leadership is developed, a change initiative such as the integration of video games and simulations in education will likely still be met with resistance in the organization. Change agents will also need to be prepared with strategies for overcoming organizational resistance.