Recent Constructions of Leadership
“Much of the current debate about educational leadership . . . has its roots in the larger debate about whether organisations (e.g., your professional setting) are best understood as hierarchical, bureaucratic systems or as collegial, collaborative systems”. (Owens, 2001:55)
- Is it a simple either – or? What factors influence your conclusion?
- To what extent, if any, does the task at hand play a role in understanding organisational purpose and by association the nature of educational leadership?
- What other factors may, can or do influence the debate?
- To what extent do you think the debate is important or even necessary?
Owens suggests there is a debate around the type of system an organisation operates under. However, within most systems, a simple either - or approach is never the case. Education is no exception. In a traditional and historical perspective, the hierarchical systems were more predominant. However, as many schools move towards an inquiry and collaborative model of teaching and learning, this also flows into the staff rooms in terms of planning and execution of different aspects of the organsiation. I believe that organisations tend to be more hierarchical or collaborative but will also have tendencies of the other type of system given certain situations or tasks.
I believe that my school still functions as a hierarchical system in most departments and overall systemic structure. In a number of our policies, the structural organisational flowchart diagram is evidence showing who reports to who and who holds what responsibilities at each level. This further perpetuates the idea that a hierarchy exists.
That being said, my education technology department operates much more as a collaborative team. When designing our digital citizenship curriculum, it began with a clear mission and vision from my supervisor. However, the creation and execution was collaborative not only between the department but also with parents, students and staff.
I also find many examples where something is implemented (for example report cards moving online only) and then feedback is asked for after and sometimes before. This feedback is used to continually refine the decisions of the senior leadership team in their vision and execution of ideas with the final say being made by those in higher power.
Factors that influence the debate include the government or governing body of the school. Some private schools have board members instead of a government dictating certain aspects of the school while other schools may have higher parent community say.
Our school does use a more collegial, collaborative approach for a number of initiatives. Our working groups in Primary are divided by interest (inquiry, mathematics, language). The groups meet about once a month to discuss what they would like to research in and how this impacts the school. Much of our curriculum programme developments have been explored through this avenue before being signed off on by the senior leadership team (which does perpetuate the hierarchy) but then the training and implementation is lead by the developing staff members. This helps to empower all staff members to be contributing members to the ongoing development of our school programmes with current teaching and learning strategies.
Owens, R. (2001). Mainstreams of organizational thought. In Organizational behavior in education : instructional leadership and school reform (7th ed.) (pp. 34-54). Boston : Allyn and Bacon.
Owens, R. G. (2004). Organizational theory in the modern period. In Organizational behavior in education : adaptive leadership and school reform (8th ed.) (pp. 104- 150). Boston: Pearson/A and B.Owens, Robert G. (2011) Organizational Behaviour in Education: Leadership and School Reform (pp 199-221). Boston: Pearson.