Educational Leadership Must Move beyond Management Training to Visionary and Moral Transformational Leaders

Article excerpt

Bennis (1989) would probably appreciate the irony in Clemens' comment. He once remarked that "To an extent, leadership is like beauty: It is hard to define, but you know it when you see it." (p.1) Both statements strike to the heart of the leadership/administration dichotomy and to the dilemma of those who prepare leaders for the changing demands and cultural norms of the new millennium.

Although the primary target of many educational reformers is the public schools, their message echoes loudly in the hallowed halls of academe as well. If leadership is vital to the schools, preparation of those leaders is very serious business indeed, and graduate programs must move beyond the training of efficient managers, to the preparation of visionary, moral, and transformational leaders. Educators developing new programs and those revisiting existing ones are morally obligated to carefully investigate the knowledge base(es) on which they will build their curriculum and delivery systems rather than overlaying behavioral/structural models with post-structural or post-modern ones. They can start with fresh assumptions about the nature of leadership, drawing from English, Senge, Sergiovanni, Hodgkinson, Bennis and a host of other contemporaries. This will be a formidable task since there is shifting consensus on what constitutes leadership, and whether it can even be "taught."

Research and experience have taught us much in recent years about child development, learning theory, classroom management, effective teaching, motivation and discipline, and the appropriate use of instructional technology. Effective schools research has built upon this to suggest new roles for school leaders and new models to prepare them. With over 15,000 school districts in this country we have a large numbers of successful programs to study and emulate. And yet there appears to be a reluctance to move beyond the scientific methods of the past, the traditional models that have been in place for decades. One colleague has described it as "institutional inertia." Perhaps, a brief examination of this fledgling field we call educational administration, and more recently educational leadership, might shed some light on this phenomenon.

While leadership is at least as old as man, the term didn't appear in the literature on school administration until well after the turn of the 20th century (English, 1994). Educational administration began as an offspring Of scientific management and its early adherents were fervently entrenched in the doctrine of efficiency, leading to what English (1994) calls "scientism." Later came the behaviorists, then the organizational sociologists, neither of which has provided the predictive power to solve the myriad problems facing 21st century educators. An increasing number of investigators believe that too many administrators see themselves as continuing the legacy of efficiency through systems theory and, now, total quality management. Over the course of the late twentieth century, our understanding of leadership has changed rather dramatically as we have recognized that what leaders do is determined, in large part, by the nature of those being led and the culture of the organizations in which they work. Additionally, as systems theory suggests, those organizations are influenced by and, in turn, influence the greater culture of which they are a part. The European and Asian concepts of communities bound by bludt and bot, the familial ties and bloodlines of generations, is not a part of the American culture. Two hundred years of immigration, economic mobility, a unique political environment, a decentralized educational system, and America's sheer geographic size have resulted in a diversity of cultural values unmatched anywhere in the world. That diversity coupled with our absolute commitment to compulsory education to further the commonweal and a constitution that leaves education to the fifty states poses an enormous challenge to educational leaders. …