Leadership as a Practice

Everybody loves a rebel with heart. And reading Sergiovanni‘s book Strengthening the Heartbeat: Leading and Learning Together in Schools, reinforces for me something I’ve always believed and is so succinctly summed up by the author — “[there is] doing things right and doing right things (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 19). Sergiovanni talks of how systems can sometimes lose the point of leading and leaders — focussing too much on the managerial, authority role of leaders. He suggests that in order for schools to thrive, leadership must be re-examined, redefined and re-distributed so communities can be formed that lead and learn together. His definition of leadership has further clarified for me how TLs (and other teachers) can truly be leaders, ‘leading from the middle’¬† —

… thinking about leadership as a practice makes more sense than thinking about leadership as an expression of individual agency. Practices may be singular or group. Regarding leadership as a practice helps us to see teachers and principals as members of communities of practice within which knowledge is used¬† and exchanged to achieve goals with little regard for roles and positions. Within communities of practice, for example, leadership activity takes place at the level of the community rather than at the level of individuals. (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 49)

As a faculty member of an alternative, democratically aligned school, this definition interests me greatly. It fits very well with what happens in the classes and amongst the students. However this is not practised amongst the staff and wider community. (At times it becomes obvious where we have not applied the philosophy of the school beyond the students and it always hits me hard. Q. How can this be? A. No time to consciously examine this issue, complete focus by teachers on student/class day-to-day issues.)

Sergiovanni’s definition of leadership I find strengthening. It is not about someone giving you permission to lead. It’s not about getting out in front and saying, “I’m going to lead you.” Its not about roles and positions or positioning at all, it’s about action. I can relate to this, I have quietly taken action this year and begun to lead by walking the talk, and by saying, “I’d like to [do] … ”

What would our school be like if we all adopted a leadership of practice? Well it would improve, it has already. This year I’ve won a literacy grant, I’ve got parents now raising money for the library, I’ve got library sessions for the classes on a weekly basis, … things are changing and for the better. How to encourage the others? Well it always seems to come back to building relationships. Sergiovanni quotes Lambert as suggesting that leadership is a ‘pattern of relationships’.

Leadership is a reciprocal process that enables participants in an educational community to construct meaning that leads toward a shared purpose of schooling’ (Lambert as cited in Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 51)

Building trusting relationships and sharing, acting with moral purpose always …all very hopeful business. =)

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Photo from: http://www.morguefile.com

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Leadership as entitlement. In Strengthening the heartbeat: Leading and learning together in schools (pp. 41-54). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.