Academic journal article High School Journal

The Role of the Principal as Transformational Leader in a Multicultural Learning Community(1)

Academic journal article High School Journal

The Role of the Principal as Transformational Leader in a Multicultural Learning Community(1)

Article excerpt

This paper explores how transformational leadership exercised by a principal would be conducive to developing effective multicultural education in an environment capitalizing on faculty diversity. Organizational values and processes consistent with school endeavors to prepare students for democratic citizenship in an increasingly pluralistic society are discussed.

Topics covered apropos to the transformational Leader's role in shaping a culture that enables diverse students to achieve more of their potential include: professional development, empowerment, action research, and ethical learning communities.

Constructivistic and phenomenological perspectives provide theoretical support for the position that students and teachers from diverse backgrounds perceive school goals based on their own cultural experiences. This interpretation underscores the leadership priority for understanding how different values and beliefs affect the teaching/learning process.

Purposes

This position paper proposes that the tenets of transformational leadership are well suited for enhancing the professional and personal development of a diverse faculty in a multicultural setting. In this context, the link of a principal's transformative behaviors with efforts to promote a learning community committed to providing equitable and excellent education is discussed. Research implications investigating the relationship between leadership and multicultural education are also suggested.

Perspectives

According to Smith (1996), "the vision and responsibility for maintaining ideals and programs that are responsive to racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious, and gender diversity has become one of the leadership challenges of the coming century" (pp. 33-34). The practice of transformational leadership by the principal can help promote a culture which is conducive to meeting this challenge. The rationale for this proposition is offered next.

Inherent in the definition of transformational leadership is the notion of concomitant growth of those that exercise and are influenced by such leadership. Thus, Burns (1978) held that transformational leadership (referring to it as transforming leadership)

   occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that
   leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and
   morality ... Power bases are linked not as counterweights but as mutual
   support for a common purpose.... Transforming leadership ultimately becomes
   moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspirations
   of both the leader and the led and thus has a transforming effect on both.
   (p. 20)

Given this mentality, "transformational" principals are open to change and, more fundamentally, embrace its prospect since they realize that school improvement is inextricably connected with the personal and professional development of themselves and their staffs. As stated by DuFour & Eaker (1992), "the key to school improvement is people improvement. Attention to professional development must be the cornerstone of any initiative to enhance the effectiveness of schools" (p. 20).

Capitalizing on Diversity through Transformational Leadership

The moral and growth dimensions of transformational leadership reinforce each other through the value placed by members of the organization on eliciting, respecting, and considering diverse points of view regarding issues and problems. Thus, in an environment receptive to change, individuals are encouraged to present their positions. Through democratic interaction consensus is reached on decisions--a process that enhances growth as individuals learn from each other by gaining insights that may not have been obtained otherwise. For Senge (1990) this effect occurs through dialogue. Thus, he maintains that team learning in organizations starts with dialogue which allows "the group to discover insights not attainable individually" (p. …

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