Sharing the Glory: Educational Leadership in the Future Will Emanate Not from Positions, but from Knowledge, Wisdom, the Ability to Persuade and a Personal Commitment to Fairness and Justice

By Thomas, M. Donald; Bainbridge, William L. | Leadership, January-February 2002 | Go to article overview

Sharing the Glory: Educational Leadership in the Future Will Emanate Not from Positions, but from Knowledge, Wisdom, the Ability to Persuade and a Personal Commitment to Fairness and Justice


Thomas, M. Donald, Bainbridge, William L., Leadership


"A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take on the woe of a people. There are few so foolish; hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world." --John Updike

Educational leadership can be madness or it can make a contribution to improving our schools. It can be a frantic effort to fix everything or it can be concentration on a few important items. It can be a futile exercise of power or it can empower individuals to help themselves.

In the face of dramatic social change, a troubled sea of governance conflict and excessive demands being made on schools, it can be said that one who aspires to educational leadership must either be mad or a supreme egotist. The need for educational leaders is an urgent worldwide condition; fortunately, there are some so foolish as to "to take on the woe of a people."

Complexities of leadership

Educational leadership can be understood by a study of leadership literature. Such a study will also help us to understand the complex nature of leadership.

In this world, the history of educational leadership will never be complete. There will always be a final chapter to be written. Nevertheless, there is general agreement that understanding leadership is extremely complex. Simple models (events make the man, charisma, a man for all seasons, the great man theory, etc.) do not adequately explain the individual or the character of leadership.

Leadership must be examined holistically and in context with history. It should not, however, be examined in isolation from the organizations, forces and events that surround it. Leadership has a setting, a historical framework, a wholeness of meaning and a diversity of influences.

One theory suggests that social evolution requires three forms of leadership: the formation of ideas, the articulation of those ideas and finally, the building of those ideas. Our own American Revolution saw this triumvirate at work when the ideas of John Locke were articulated by the patriots and then built by Franklin, Washington and Hamilton.

It may be that the sounds of violence and radical change are needed before the builders can appear to be moderates. Often a period of turmoil and conflict is followed by one of cooperation and quiet progress.

There is also a debate as to whether leadership occurs best when leaders have values that are congruent with the groups they lead, or when their values are different. Some claim leadership is possible only when values are similar; others say leadership cannot occur unless values are divergent. Those who argue for similar values say leadership is accepted when the leader is trusted and seen as the model of the group. Those who argue for different values say that leadership is the process of changing group values. Their position is that leadership cannot exist without change.

Here again it may be possible that both are needed. The leader must articulate the values of the society, but at the same time have some personal values that go beyond his followers. Leadership is possible only if one has followers. You cannot have followers if your views and your values do not coincide with those of your followers. But leadership is also the process of going beyond the status quo, exploring new ideas and creating new forms.

In education, leaders must be in tune with the values of their communities to hold their jobs. They must also contribute something from themselves to earn their pay.

Scholars have also argued about whether leaders are manipulative or sincere. Some state that the act of leadership is always manipulative, that leaders know where they are going and manipulate others toward their objectives. Others claim that when leaders believe and are committed to their purposes, leadership is sincere. Sincerity is defined as the act of believing one's own propaganda.

There is no perfect model for examining leadership. …

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