Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Leadership Practices of School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Leadership Practices of School Counselors

Article excerpt

Leadership is a vital skill called for by the school counseling profession. However, limited research has been done to examine how leadership is characterized by practicing school counselors. The purpose of the exploratory study in this article was to assess leadership practices of school counselors, and to analyze the relationships among demographics, experience, training, work setting, and leadership practices. Results presented are part of a larger study. Findings revealed that age, experience, size of school population, and professional licensure predicted leadership practices of school counselors.


National initiatives in professional school counseling make it clear that leadership is an essential skill for school counselors working in the 21st century (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005; House & Hayes, 2002; House & Martin, 1998; Paisley & McMahon, 2001). Furthermore, because other essential skills such as advocacy, collaboration, and systemic change assume a certain degree of leadership, leadership may be considered the foundation of the other essential skills. Recent training materials for school counselors have begun to address the need for school counselor leadership (ASCA, 2005; Davis, 2005; DeVoss & Andrews, 2006; Erford, 2003; Perusse & Goodnough, 2004; Stone & Dahir, 2006, 2007); however, further exploration of leadership concepts specific to school counseling is needed in order to strengthen school counseling practice. Although a vital component of school counseling in the 21st century, leadership has not historically been a notion connected to school counseling and currently there are no established profiles of school counselor leadership. Moreover, leadership is difficult to define and often does not have clearly identified outcomes (Northouse, 2004). Despite its importance, leadership may have received less attention than the other essential skills, and therefore little is known about the practices of school counselor leadership at the local school level.


As a concept, leadership is complex, and the large number of proposed leadership models and the vast literature base indicate a history of researchers and professionals struggling to define leadership (e.g., Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2001; Kouzes & Posner, 2003; Northouse, 2004). Traditionally, leadership within schools was seen as the domain of the school administration because of the executive and managerial hierarchies common in schools. Within this hierarchical structure, school counselors typically have neither envisioned nor endorsed themselves as leaders. More recently, however, scholars have promoted new conceptualizations of leadership that have more to do with skills, relationships, and processes than with authoritative power or position within a hierarchy. Several researchers in the field of leadership (e.g., Bennis & Nanus, 1997; Covey, 1992; Kouzes & Posner; Northouse; Sergiovanni, 2000) have identified an essence of leadership that features many of the skills that school counselors possess but have not typically been encouraged to see as "leadership."

For example, recent changes in leadership models note a shift from a leader role of separation to one of collaboration (Katzenmeyer &Moller, 2001; Northouse, 2004; Slater, 2005). Applying this model to school counseling, the collaborative school counselor-leader participates with stakeholders and ties the school counseling program into other school-wide initiatives (Bemak, 2000; Dimmitt, 2003; Stone & Dahir, 2006). In addition, DeVoss and Andrews (2006) explained that because school counseling is a relationship-oriented discipline, leadership concepts such as systems thinking, servant leadership, and empowerment come easily to many school counselors. Regarding the four "contexts" of leadership identified by Bolman and Deal (1991)--(a) structural, (b) human resource, (c) political, and (d) symbolic--Dollarhide (2003) suggested that structural leadership and human resource leadership are likely evidenced by school counselors. …

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