Teachers as Leaders:
The Heart of the High Leadership Capacity School
Teachers who choose the path of teacher leadership…;become owners and investors in their schools,
rather than mere tenants.
—Roland Barth (1999)
All people yearn for vitality and purpose. Teachers who exhibit vitality are energized by their own curiosities, their colleagues, and their students; they find joy and stimulation in the daily dilemmas of teaching and are intrigued by the challenge of improving adult learning communities. Teachers become fully alive when their schools and districts provide them with opportunities for skillful participation, inquiry, dialogue, and reflection. Such environments foster leadership.
It is no surprise that teacher leadership is at the heart of the high leadership capacity school. Because teachers represent the largest and most constant group of professionals in schools and districts, their full participation in the work of leadership is necessary for high leadership capacity. This is a comforting thought, because the path to leadership is so clear, yet also a disquieting one, because many find the path difficult.
Why do so many principals and superintendents find teacher leadership so difficult to come by? There are several reasons: a philosophy that reserves the work of leadership for formal authority roles, a hierarchical view of authority and power, and an insistence that teachers could be coaxed into leadership if presented with the right incentives, to name a few. Such attitudes produce short-term, shallow, and unsustainable results. Using external incentives to motivate teachers, for instance, can have a deleterious effect on leadership. Short-term incentives that elicit mechanistic responses from some teachers can generate resentment in the long run by encouraging reliance on such rewards. True development is bound to be stunted by incentive systems