Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

New Counselors' Leadership Efforts in School Counseling: Themes from a Year-Long Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

New Counselors' Leadership Efforts in School Counseling: Themes from a Year-Long Qualitative Study

Article excerpt

Leadership requires long-term commitment and a long-range vision of the future. As school counselors are called on to provide leadership, it becomes important to understand the temporal context of school counseling leadership. To accomplish this, a year-long qualitative study was designed in which the authors interviewed five new counselors who agreed to engage in leadership. In this article, the results of these interviews are presented and discussed in terms of school counseling practice and school counselor education.


The American School Counselor Association J(ASCA) has highlighted the importance of leadership, placing it in the themes that surround the context of the school counselors' work described in the ASCA National Model(R) (2005). According to the Education Trust's (2007) Transforming School Counseling Initiative, effective leadership is critical if school counselors are to "work with teachers, administrators and other school personnel to make sure that schools' structures, policies and practices are designed to ensure student success" (Foundation Principles, [paragraph] 3). Such inclusive leadership activities facilitate relationships, build trust, enhance communication, and, ultimately, refocus education professionals, parents, and the community on the challenge of helping all students become successful lifelong learners and productive citizens (Bemak, 2000; Dollarhide, 2003; House & Hayes, 2002; Hughey, 2001).

This call for leadership has been reflected in both training materials and recent literature. To become successful leaders, school counselors need to be educated in leadership skills and given opportunities to explore their own leadership style (Stone & Clark, 2001). Numerous contemporary texts for school counselors-in-training provide leadership theories and models that will help new generations of school counselors understand this critical skill set (see, for example, Brown & Trusty, 2005; Cobia & Henderson, 2007; Dollarhide & Saginak, 2003, 2006; Erford, 2007; Stone & Dahir, 2006).

In addition, recent literature suggests various ways that school counselors are leading their schools and their programs. For example, Schwallie-Giddis, ter Maat, and Pak (2003) described the leadership team that spearheaded discussions of the ASCA National Model in Virginia, which was further explored by Kaffenberger, Murphy, and Bemak (2006) as they examined the discrepancy between the training provided by counselor education programs and counselor practice in the field. Lewis and Borunda (2006) described the need for second-order change that emerges from shared leadership, advocacy, and collaboration with students, colleagues, and community and that empowers students with lifelong competence. Calls for new programs (i.e., Bemak, Chung, & Siroskey-Sabdo, 2005; Colbert, Vernon-Jones, & Pransky, 2006; Keys, Bemak, & Lockhart, 1998; Mitchell & Bryan, 2007) and calls for new approaches to old problems (Britzman, 2005) suggest leadership activities on the part of school counselors that can move programs toward greater congruence with the ASCA National Model and/or resolve challenges that impede students' academic progress.

Exploration into the leadership role of school counselors has also highlighted principal-school counselor dynamics, as they are both perceived as leaders in the schools (Stone & Clark, 2001; Zalaquett, 2005). While elementary principals in one study did not identify school counselor leadership per se as a priority activity (Zalaquett), in another study, 12% of principals interviewed (3 out of 26) described "innovative school leader" (p. 21) as a desired role for school counselors (Amatea & Clark, 2005). Additionally, in a study of exemplary principals, systemic leadership on the part of school counselors was valued by the respondents at all educational levels (Dollarhide, Smith, & Lemberger, 2007), as Sergiovanni (as cited in Lieberman, 2004) suggested in the concept of leadership density that the most effective leadership occurs when specialists within the school are afforded leadership opportunities from their various areas of expertise. …

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