Sunday, 14 May 2017

Looking for Leadership?

Where do you gain or develop your skills and knowledge as a leader? Recently asked what are the requirements for being a leader, I spent the week thinking…
  • Is it being accredited as Highly Accomplished or Lead teacher?
  • Is it because you have a Masters in Leadership or Education?
  • Is it based on your ‘acting’ experiences?
  • Are you expected to have a certain number of years of teaching experience?

At Harvard, I learnt that there is an accreditation process to become a principal in the US. I wondered about this accreditation process and the principals I knew in Australia. Does an accreditation process prepare you for leadership? In 2015, I became accredited as Experienced Teacher (AIS) through the standards-based pathway. I viewed my evidence (programs, assessment, data, etc), aligned them to the standards, indicating that I met the benchmark. I can honestly say that there was not much ‘learning’ taking place through this process. While I became more familiar with the Australian Teaching Standards, I was proving that my work met particular standards. I didn’t create or research anything new but simply aligned my evidence to the standards.

Recently I spent a day learning how to use action research as a pathway to Experienced Teacher (ISTAA). After working on my PhD last year, I think I have a solid understanding of the process of action research. I did learn how to use the digital portfolio and upload the evidence. This was helpful but what resonated with me throughout the day was the learning and growth that action research could provide. The learning happens throughout the entire process. I worry that the standards-based accreditation is a tick-the-box-process. The process is not focused on professional growth but about proving that you are ‘proficient, experienced, accomplished, or a lead’ teacher.  But the action research was more about improving yourself through learning. It centred around learning to improve students' learning experiences. We listened to someone who went through the process last year and he talked about it being messy, overwhelming and at times, stressful. He also mentioned that he believes he learnt more going through this path than aligning the standards with his evidence. I learnt that if your action research is approved it will be credited towards a Masters in Education. Yet the accreditation process does not recognise any previous postgraduate study.

Postgraduate Study
I have a Masters in Education but did not conduct a research project. I wrote a 10, 000 word literature review, which was an enlightening professional experience. In hindsight, I wish I had completed a research project. I think it is unfortunate that a teacher’s salary is solely based on accreditation and not professional and personal growth. When you undertake postgraduate study or research, your focus in on learning and improving. Accreditation is focused on proving yourself. But I see the action research path differs. Do you think having a Masters in Education/Leadership is more valued than a certain level of accreditation? 

Years of Experience
Does experience hold value in schools? If one is ‘acting’ in the leadership role, does that reflect the school’s view of being appropriately qualified or an appropriate substitute? Is there a set pathway to leadership? Is context a huge variable? I’ve heard a second year teacher share how he wanted to be a principal. Only later to hear others say that he needs to be in the classroom for at least 10 years first. I asked someone (not in education), what he thought was a pre-requisite for being an educational leader. He responded with, ‘wouldn’t someone with 20 years experience in the classroom be a good indicator?’ Does an effective teacher make an effective leader? I don’t believe these are synonymous. I once worked in an industry where you worked your way up the ladder. Your years of experience reflected your power in the workplace. When people became manager, they believed they had the right to have the best car space, make all the decisions, and their requests were always the priority. I remember my parents saying that it was character building and said it taught me to respect those with more experience. I do respect those with more experience but in my opinion, leadership is not about power but empowering. I sought others' opinions about leadership on Twitter.

Twitter Poll

If you surround yourself with leaders, both inspiring and those not so inspiring, you create your beliefs about leadership. Over the past ten years, my view of leadership has really been shaped by role models, reading literature, experiences and discussions. For me, a leader does not expect people to blindly follow. An effective leader is a builder. They build -
  • the culture, the climate and the capacity of their team
  • relationships and the self-efficacy of their team
  • and establish trust
To me, a leader is delighted when someone in his or her team has been successful. A leaders sends someone from their team (instead of themselves) to a conference or course to build their capacity. These are only examples, as I know leadership encompasses much more, including high levels of emotional intelligence. 

Courses, study, accreditation, and experience can all contribute to being an effective leader.
However, the one thing I’ve learnt and truly believe is leadership is not about proving yourself but improving yourself and your team. The leaders I aspire to be are those who care more about the big picture, the team and their community. Do we look for leadership potential in others? Do we build the capacity of others for leadership? Do we value personal and professional growth? 

I don’t have the answers but sometimes it’s worth asking the question- 
What are the best qualifications and skills required for leadership?

Always asking questions...