Think about the titles that are used in your current workplace to describe formal leadership roles.
What practices do such titles privilege and value?
Job labels help to support an understanding of role responsibility and provide clarity for the community (Gunter, 2004, p. 21). The higher your label, the more leadership responsibilities you are known to have. Formal leadership labels often provide a clear identity to a person in the role. Many of the more formal leadership labels are actually more managerial responsibilities associated with them. The labels of roles denote a sense of where a person lies within the school hierarchy. In my current setting, the hierarchy begins with the Head of School, the Head of Primary/Secondary, Assistant Heads, Division Coordinators, Year Level Coordinators, Teachers, Teaching Assistants. This seems like much quite a distance from the top to the bottom at times.
Which practices are marginalised or less valued by these titles?
Teaching Assistants are often seen as ‘less valued’ in the Asian context as there is a large ‘helper’ culture. I don’t believe this is seen by the teachers or even the school. However, students and parents can expect the TAs to ‘pick up after their child’ more.
Another area of labelling that has seen a change is our single subject teachers. Previously they were labelled as ‘specialist teachers’ in Primary. While they have expertise in one area compared to the homeroom teacher who does general subjects, the label of ‘specialist’ was having a negative connotation. Therefore the change to single subject allowed for a more specific label to accurately reflect their roles.
What sorts of identities are produced by these labels as ‘manager’, versus ‘leader’ versus ‘principal/head teacher/ director’ etcetera?
We don’t use the word ‘manager’ except in the business office suggesting a more business approach to the school’s resources and finances. ‘Leader’ suggests much more of an inspiring approach to change rather than a ‘manager’ as the person who implements clear tasks and paperwork.
The word Principal to me suggests the person with ultimate responsibility for the school. This person is responsible for outlining the school’s vision and finding effective ways of implementing positive change within the school. They also have a number of managerial tasks to do on a day-to-day basis. It can be hard to not get ‘bogged down’ with these tasks instead of being visible in the school at times which can affect the subordinates as followers.
At times labels may be oppressive to the person in how they want to be viewed within an orgnisation.
What are the political/economic/local conditions that may have led to these labels being adopted in preference to others?
The local community often reinforces these labels even more so than the educators within the systems. Parents and other community members have their own ideas of what these roles mean based on their experiences in their own workplace. The labels will likely continue to change to reflect the image and ideals the school wants to project to the community.
What are the ethical implications of these kinds of labels being adopted in preference to others?
There can be some tension between the idea of what your label is and what your role is.
In an international setting, culture plays a large role in the implications of labels (Gunter, 2004, p. 34). Each culture may have a different interpretation of the label. This can cause tension between schools and parent/ student communities. Culture may also reinforce hierarchies within the school.
Gunter, H. (2004). Labels and labelling in the field of educational leadership. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 25(1), 21-41.
Note your observations in your blog about Bolman & Deal.
This has been probably the most valuable of all readings so far. Two separate educators from other international schools happened to bring up this reading and engage in conversation about the article at a conference I was at this past week suggesting that it is extremely relevant and widely referred to by educators.
The article begins with an overview of leadership to distinguish Leadership from management where leaders are focusing their energies on the purpose (mission/vision/values of the organisation) and management is much more about getting things done from planning to effective implementation (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 343). They continue to suggest leadership is not a solo act but rather it requires followers who support the idea of the leader.
A high-interest area of the article was the idea of gender and leadership with the ceiling effect for women in leadership. Unfortunately, I feel I am becoming more aware of the differences as I try to navigate a move in countries and seek more leadership opportunities. It is interesting how my current organisation and prospective schools feel as I begin to transition. This is also an area of interest as a group of international educators met in Hong Kong last month at the 21st Century Learning Conference with a session to discuss our ideas of #lead our initiative of supporting, discussing and sharing ideas about gender equality in education and leadership. I encourage anyone interested to please reach out or find us on Twitter or join our Facebook group as we begin to develop this idea.
I don’t believe there is one best way to be a good leader as I have had a few inspirational leaders that have led, motivated and inspired staff in very different ways. I know that I find certain aspects of the way leaders lead better for my style of learning and following but this may not be ‘better’ for everyone. I do believe the idea of leadership being somewhat situational. While leaders are more likely to have one approach to rely on most of the time, a good leader should be able to adapt to the needs of the situation and those involved to best support all participants.
The idea of the 4 frames of leadership are as follows:
1. Structural Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 356)
This type of leadership frame focused heavily on implementation with an effective leader designing approach choices for planning for implementation whereas an ineffective leader would be much more bureaucratic in their approach. Unfortunately, the structural framework often does not allow for anticipating resistance to change and misreading cues.
2. Human Resource Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 361)
Human resources frame focuses on the leader as a facilitator for change, a change agent. They have a very open approach as they support, coach and empower their followers through strong communication. There is a clear sense of people being put first through a partnership of all working towards goals.
3. Political Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 364)
The political frame approach is much more about being real with clarity. These types of leaders think about the different stakeholders and what their power and interests are and work towards building valuable relationships. Power is used to persuade, negotiate and coerce.
4. Symbolic Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 366)
The symbolic frame approaches leadership through leading by example and looking for symbols to highlight a need for change. There is a clear vision with the focus on reaching the values level of the subordinates as they approach concerns with a bidirectional approach to leadership.
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2008). Reframing Leadership. In Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership (4th ed., pp. 341-372). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
While I believe that non-white male leaders are becoming more prevalent, there is still a lack of equality. As a female in the international teaching setting in Asia, it is very rare to find female heads of school or even female Heads of Secondary/Primary. In my current organisation, our senior leadership team consists of 5 administrators (head of schools, head of secondary, head of primary, head of student services and director of education technology). Of those five, only the head of student services is female.
It is also challenging in Asian countries with the stereotypes of our parent community expecting a male to be the dominant leaders in the schools. I have been in many meetings where a parent from an Asian country continuously looks to my male counterpart to answer, even when I have already provided him with the answer. There is definitely a need to break down gender stereotypes and support equality.
As a female aspiring to be in leadership, it is difficult to find female leaders and mentors to look up. It can be frustrating with education being a profession with a higher percentage of female educators, and yet, so few females reach the top of the leadership chain. I’ve recently received a copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and am looking forward to hearing her perspective on this topic.
Fisher’s (2009) work about leadership was a thought-provoking read that allowed me to be reflective of how I lead as well as how others lead me.
One of the clearest things that came out of the article was the need of a clear vision at all times. A leader needs to be able to effectively identify and communicate this to their followers. In order for engagement, the followers need to ‘buy-in’ to the vision and truly understand all aspects of it before they are effectively able to live and breathe it. This is so important for the success of an organization.
Another point that resonated with me was the need to motivate others. There are so many different ways of motivating people but in my opinion, empowering people to take lead in align with the vision and values of the organisation creates the most effective outcomes. This can be scary for a leader as they have to trust in the their followers and release some sense of control. This bottom-up approach allows those involved to gain a sense of self worth and contribution to the organisation.
The importance of managing alone will never be successful. In conjunction to managing, a leader needs to lead using both these skillsets intertwined to eliminate any disconnect. It was also noted of the consistency between these two needed.
I loved that note about leadership being personal. Recently I heard someone say that in leadership sometimes you just have to do something because it has to get done. For me, this is not personal at all. I think if you can’t justify why this is needing to be done and the true purpose and impact of what you are doing then perhaps this isn’t the best route. A leader needs to stay focused on what they are trying to achieve and have a deeper understanding of why they are doing it as it aligns to the vision.
Fisher, J. (2009). The Thoughtful Leader. Review Ontario Leadership Framework, Ontario Ministry of Education. (Dr. Fisher has kindly provided permission to use this resource). Click here to access
Leadership & Gender
As a female in international education, I look to the hierarchy of my own school and other schools in my area. Time and time again I see a few females in the roles of senior leadership. In my school, we have 1 female out of 5 senior leadership members. It is very unbalanced. If you move a few steps down the hierarchy to middle leadership (year group coordinators, subject coordinators, etc), you will find an even number of males and females in leadership positions if not more females slightly. While this middle management tilt may be due to generally more females in the education field, there seems to be a glass ceiling effect that makes it challenging for females to move beyond to senior leadership.
As an Education Technology Coach, I also very few females represented in these roles. Primarily technology roles are dominated by males. I am the first female ever in the technology role in my school and work with 3 other males.
While I firmly believe the best person for the job should get a position, schools should be cognizant of what messages are perceived by others when looking at leadership teams. What does it say to your students when no females are in technology leadership positions? What does it say to parents and staff when all senior leadership consists of males? How does having different genders on a leadership team impact the perspectives brought to the table of discussions?