Leadership and management
While leadership is the major focus of this study, it is acknowledged that much of a head teacher’s day in Bangladesh is spent on administrative and managerial activities. In this dissertation, the term management is primarily used to refer to the ‘nuts and bolts’ planning, organising, and interpersonal relationships required by head teachers on a day-to-day basis. In comparison, leadership is considered to be a future and change-oriented process of vision building, networking, and improvement. As Dunford et al (2000) state: “Leadership is the ability to move the school forward, whilst management is concerned with the procedures necessary to keep the school running. Leadership is concerned with the long term and strategic, management with the immediate and short term” (p. 2).
Although different, leadership and management are two essential and complementary elements for the successful operation of a school (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Southworth, 1998; Day et al., 2000). Head teachers are not expected to be only effective managers who ‘do things right’ but they must be leaders who ‘do the right thing’. Effective management and the ability to deal with the technical (Sergiovanni, 1984) or structural (Bolman & Deal, 1991) aspects of a school’s operations is thus an essential, but not sufficient, element of effective school leadership. Head teachers need to be able to balance a demand for managerial efficiency with educative and democratic leadership (Thew, 2002).
Leadership can have a powerful influence on the effectiveness of the school and on the outcomes of the students. As Harris (2004) states,
Contemporary educational reform places a great premium upon the relationship between leadership and school improvement. International research evidence has consistently reinforced the importance of leadership in securing and sustaining improvement (p.13).
Various leadership styles are practised by educational leaders to improve their schools, but currently, distributed leadership is in vogue (Harris, 2004). ‘Distributed leadership’ has become a catchword for organisations in both commercial and educational contexts in the last few years and currently it receives much attention from researchers around the globe. The nature of distributed leadership is influenced by the context of a particular school. In a distributed leadership approach teachers share the responsibilities, in order to fulfil the schools’ goals. A distributed model of leadership focuses on the interactions rather than the actions (Harris, 2008). Teachers work with head teachers, without a positional appointment for the tasks, because they are highly motivated to do so and have a feeling of personal responsibility (Barrett, 1998 as cited in Storey, 2004). For school improvement and achievement of student outcomes, distributed leadership seems to be a successful approach (Harris, 2008).
Distributed leadership emphasises the sharing of decision-making among the members of organisations. With this approach, not only leaders but also teachers and students build a participatory approach in their activities. It may be said that this style of leadership fits better with Western modes of thinking (Coleman & Earley, 2005), but it is also gaining increasing attention in developing education systems. The basic idea of distributed leadership is outlined by Yukl (2002):
An alternative perspective [to the heroic single leader], that is slowly gaining more adherents, is to define leadership as a shared process of enhancing the individual and collective capacity of people to accomplish their work effectively…instead of a heroic leader who can perform all essential leadership functions are distributed among different members of the team or organisation (p. 432).
Although a ‘heroic’ approach to leadership is a predominant style in many schools, many teachers do not like this style as they cannot participate in the activities and decision making needed to develop and improve their schools. In recent years, the individual-focused heroic approach to leadership has been challenged. Collaboration among colleagues in schools is increasingly valued as the way to work. Working in a team creates motivation among the members to work towards the same vision. In any organisation, expertise exists in different people. It is the responsibility of leaders to engage them where they are needed. Formal leaders try to determine the scope of work and show the capability of the teachers to achieve that within the schools. Distributed leadership concentrates on engaging expertise wherever it exists within the organisation rather than seeking this only through formal leaders or their role (Harris, 2004).
The post-heroic model emphasises human relations-oriented features such as teamwork, participation, empowerment, risk-taking and little control over others. In this context, school leadership “does not command or control, but works together with others, constantly providing relevant information regarding plans and operations (Eicher, 2003 as cited in Oduro, 2006, p. 23).
Distribution is not just distributing leadership but is also putting more influence in the hands of the people who have expertise (NCSL, 2007). Careful distribution of responsibility among the members is crucial. The notion of distribution may be described as follows: “Leadership is “dispersed rather than concentrated” and does not necessarily give any particular individual or categories of persons the privilege of providing more leadership than others. Thus, the notion of distribution permeates all aspects of post heroic leadership techniques” (Oduro, 2006, p. 24).
Distributed leadership is a way of working together where all the members of the team respect each other at workplace and give opportunity to others to lead. Heroic leadership cannot satisfy the other members as it does not create scope for other members to work significantly. Distribution of leadership is not intended just to divide the workload but to motivate all the members of the staff to work together for a common goal or vision. It is also important to create opportunies for the people who have expertise. The leader must influence the experts to work for the organisation.
Parental involvement and leadership
Parental involvement has immense importance for the overall success of schools. Children come from their families to learn in schools. Parents have expectations of their children regarding their achievement. According to Arthur, Beecher, Death, Docket & Farmer (2005):
Children’s learning is situated in the social and cultural contexts of their families and communities. As children observe family and community members, participate in daily events and engage in collaborative experiences, they are learning about the processes, concepts and practices that are valued within their community. Family and community experiences include everyday activities such as shopping, going to the movies, or attending the church or mosque (p. 37).
Parents can have an active role in the activities related to their children’s education. To enhance the capability of students, parents need to have close relationships with schools. Parental involvement includes interactions between the teachers, students and parents about the day to day activities in their school. Parents need to speak to the teachers and head teachers about the advancement of their children’s education.
A school learning community should be created in which parent-teacher sharing would be enhanced. The home, school and community connection can help make learning more meaningful for students. Making such connections is a part of good pedagogy. Pedagogical leadership is needed that is committed to creating connections between schools and family (Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd, 2009). Where the gap between the educational cultures of home and school is wide, careful planning is needed by the head teacher to bridge this.
Writer: Assistant Professor in Education, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Rangpur, Bangladesh.