Characteristics of Leaders of Change
Believing that Schools are for Student's Learning
Valuing Human Resources
Leaders of Change are Communicators and Listeners
Summary of Characteristics
Leadership to promote and implement educational change has not been uniform. Knowledge about the qualities of the individuals who have successfully implemented such strategies has been minimal. If the educational community has knowledge of successful strategies and programs, why is there limited implementation? Did the leader make the difference? What are the characteristics these people possess that enabled them to change their districts and schools?
Although knowledge is limited on what types of leaders are needed, there are a number of assumptions about leadership. In educational organizations there is an assumption that leaders of educational change should be both leaders and managers. "We expect both leadership and management from the same individual" (Manasse, 1986, p. 153). This idea may arise from districts' and schools' structures where superintendents and principals are the primary administrator. Nevertheless, "while we can distinguish management from leadership conceptually, in reality we often find the two roles coexisting in the same positions and the same person" (Manasse, 1986, p. 153). For example, a principal is often responsible for the school's vision as well as the practical steps needed to attain that vision. Teacher leadership also 'coexists' in one person. Traditional teacher leadership roles, such as department heads and textbook adoption committee chairpersons, have been performed by teachers who were responsible for teaching as well as providing leadership (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Boles & Troen, 1992; Wasley, 1991).
Another assumption about leaders who change their organizations is that only administrators will be leaders. However this assumption, that change comes only from individuals in top positions, "ignores the invisible leadership of lower-level staff members" (Murphy, 1988, p. 655). While studies of educational leadership have focused on leaders in administrative positions, recent studies are focusing on teachers as leaders (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Boles & Troen, 1992; Howey, 1988; Wasley, 1991; Waugh & Punch, 1987). The recent educational reform movements, such as restructuring and site based management, have promoted increased teacher participation and leadership in the decision- making processes of various aspects of school administration. Studies about teachers' roles in these reform efforts are beginning to emerge.
Information about leaders who have guided or provoked their organizations to change is also beginning to emerge. These leaders began with having a vision, developed a shared vision with their co- workers, and valued the organization's personnel. Leaders who changed their organizations were proactive and took risks. They recognized shifts in the interests or needs of their clientele, anticipated the need to change and challenged the status quo. Educational leaders of change have these characteristics. How these characteristics are manifested by educational leaders is presented in the characteristics section of this paper. Since limited data exist on educational leaders, the information on the characteristics of these leaders is drawn primarily from the literature on effective schools.
The effective schools movement investigated schools whose students from disadvantaged situations (minority status, low socio-economic levels) were performing at average or above average levels in basic skills on standardized achievement tests (Brookover & Lezotte, 1979; Edmonds, 1979; Sizemore, Brossard, & Harrigan, 1983; Venezky & Winfield, 1979). In the late 1970s, based on contrastive studies of high and low performing schools, researchers began to identify common factors or characteristics of these effective schools. One of the major findings of the effective schools research was the identification of instructional leadership as a significant aspect of effective schools.
Described as a "multidimensional construct" (Heck, Larsen, and Marcoulides, 1990, p. 122), instructional leadership includes characteristics such as high expectations of students and teachers, an emphasis on instruction, provision of professional development, and use of data to evaluate students' progress among others. Instructional leadership has also been found to be a significant factor in facilitating, improving, and promoting the academic progress of students.
Although there is a rich description of instructional leaders' behaviors paralleling the findings from the literature on effective leaders, there is limited data about which leadership characteristics facilitate and promote change in educational settings. Instructional leadership characteristics parallel the two dimensions of leadership discussed previously. "A large body of research on schools has consistently demonstrated that the most effective leader behavior is strong in both initiating structure and consideration" (Hoy & Brown, 1988, p. 27). Effective school leaders are task- and people-oriented. Kohan's (1989) analysis of data concerning superintendents' leadership style supports the findings of effective leaders being high performances in the effective leadership dimensions of initiating structures and consideration. Hoy and Brown (1988) found that teachers responded more favorably to principals with "a leadership style that combines both structure and consideration" (p. 36).
Teacher leadership has been seen in traditional roles such as department heads, textbook adoption committee chairpersons, and union representatives (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Wasley, 1991). In addition to being restricted to these three areas, "traditional leadership opportunities for teachers are extremely limited and generally serve an efficiency function rather than a leadership function" (Wasley, 1991, p. 4). However current educational reforms prompt a reconsideration of teacher leadership. Reforms such as site based management and restructuring efforts include broader roles for teacher participation and leadership. Current teacher leadership roles are involving teachers as mentors, team leaders, curriculum developers, and staff development providers and intend to "improve the quality of public education while allowing teachers greater leadership in the development of those improvements" (Wasley, 1991, p 6). These roles involve teachers in decision-making processes and facilitate teachers becoming leaders of change. Nickse (1977) studied teachers as change agents and advocated teachers in leadership roles in change efforts for four reasons:
- teachers have a vested interest, "they care about what they do and how they do it and feel a sense of responsibility for their efforts";
- teachers have a sense of history, they are "aware of the norms of their colleagues";
- teachers know the community, "have information concerning the values and attitudes of the community" and
- teachers can implement change, they "are where the action is. . .in the position to initiate planned change on the basis of need" (p. 5).
Yet despite these reasons and attempts to promote teachers as leaders of change and to extend teacher leadership roles, teachers do not view themselves as leaders (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Wasley, 1991).
Nevertheless, the data on leaders of educational change and the emerging information on teacher leadership indicate that the characteristics of these individuals mirror those of leaders who have changed other organizations. Leaders of educational change have vision, foster a shared vision, and value human resources. They are proactive and take risks. In addition, they strongly believe that the purpose of schools is to meet the academic needs of students and are effective communicators and listeners. Leaders of educational change have vision, foster a shared vision, and value human resources. They are proactive and take risks.
Leadership requires vision. It is a force that provides meaning and purpose to the work of an organization. Leaders of change are visionary leaders, and vision is the basis of their work. "To actively change an organization, leaders must make decisions about the nature of the desired state" (Manasse, 1986, p. 151). They begin with a personal vision to forge a shared vision with their coworkers. Their communication of the vision is such that it empowers people to act. According to Westley and Mintzberg (1989) visionary leadership is dynamic and involves a three stage process:
- an image of the desired future for the organization (vision) is
- communicated (shared) which serves to
- "empower those followers so that they can enact the vision" (p. 18).
The important role of vision is also evident in the literature concerning instructional leadership (Blumberg & Greenfield, 1980; Leithwood & Montgomery, 1984; Manasse, 1986; Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989; Pejza, 1985). For educational leaders who implement change in their school or district, vision is "a hunger to see improvement" (Pejza, 1985, p. 10) as well as "the force which molds meaning" (Manasse, 1986, p. 150). Leaders of educational change have a clear picture of what they want to accomplish; they have the "ability to visualize one's goals" (Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 21). Their vision of their school or district provides purpose, meaning, and significance to the work of the school and enables them to motivate and empower the staff to contribute to the realization of the vision. The American Association of School Administrators' (1986) description of leadership includes the leader's ability to translate a vision into reality as well as the ability to articulate the vision to others. Furthermore, leaders of educational change can transmit that vision to others so that they become motivated to work toward the realization of the vision.
According to Manasse (1986), vision includes the "development, transmission, and implementation of an image of a desirable future" (p. 150). She further states that the sharing of a leader's vision "may differentiate true leaders from mere managers" (p. 151). School leaders have not only a vision but also the skills to communicate that vision to others, to develop a shared vision, a "shared covenant" (Sergiovanni, 1990, p. 216). The "development, transmission, and implementation" of a vision is the focus of leaders of educational change. Leaders invite and encourage others to participate in determining and developing a shared vision. The process of developing a shared vision promotes collegial and collaborative relationships. How educational leaders develop collegial relationships to form a shared vision is discussed in Hord's (1992) companion synthesis to this paper. Sergiovanni (1990) has described this aspect of leadership as "bonding"; leader and followers have a shared set of values and commitment "that bond them together in a common cause" (p. 23) in order to meet a common goal. In Chrispeels's (1990) report of effective schools, she states that "if a school staff has a shared vision, there is a commitment to change" (p. 39). The shared vision becomes a "shared covenant that bonds together leader and follower in a moral commitment" (Sergiovanni, 1990, p. 24).
Vision, a critical leadership characteristic, is also a trait of successful executive educators (Crowson & Morris, 1990; Harrington-Lueker, 1991; Mahoney, 1990; Papalewis,1988). Outstanding superintendents studied by Mahoney (1990) were described as individuals who "knew where their school system ought to be headed and why" (p. 27); he stated that "top school leaders create a vision for their school systems and develop a plan for the future" (p. 27). According to Crowson and Morris's (1990) study of superintendents, vision included "deciding what's the correct thing to do" (p. 54). Vision guides the work of superintendents and influences the work of others. "School leaders are creative visionaries willing to take risks in pursuit of cherished values and able to cling to a vision with a tenacity that is contagious to nearly everyone" (Papalewis, 1988, p. 159).
The importance of principals having a vision also appears in the literature concerning instructional leadership (Blumberg & Greenfield, 1980; Lightfoot, 1983; Méndez-Morse, 1991; Niece, 1989; Pejza, 1985). Principals have a vision -- a picture of what they want their schools to be and their students to achieve. Pejza (1985) stated that "leadership requires a vision. Without a vision to challenge followers with, there's no possibility of a principal being a leader" (p. 10). The vision provides guidance and direction for the school staff, students, and administration. Niece (1989) reported that several authorities included "providing vision and direction for the school" (p. 5) as a component of instructional leadership. Principals keep their "vision in the forefront" (Méndez- Morse, 1991, p. 2). "Associated with a vision has to be a plan, a way of reaching the goal" (Pejza, 1985, p. 10).
The terms "mission" and "goal-oriented" are often used in literature to describe this characteristic of principals (Blumberg & Greenfield, 1986; Hallinger, Bickman, & Davis, 1990; Leithwood & Montgomery, 1984). Blumberg and Greenfield (1986) found that effective principals seem to be "highly goal oriented and to have a keen sense of goal clarity" (in Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 20). Hallinger, Bickman, and Davis (1990) stated that "principals influence student learning by developing a school mission that provides an instructional focus for teachers throughout the school" (p. 28). Leithwood and Montgomery (1984) concluded that "goals are the long term aspirations held by principals for work in their schools. No other dimension of principal behavior is more consistently linked to school improvement by current empirical research than Goals" (p. 23). The school administrators' values and beliefs shape her or his vision. Vision influences the school climate which includes teachers' instructional behaviors as well as student outcomes.
While administrators' visions tend to focus on district- or school- wide instructional issues, teachers' visions tend to address teacher roles and student outcomes (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Boles & Troen, 1992; Murphy, Everston, & Radnofsky, 1991; Wasley, 1991). Murphy, Everston, and Radnofsky (1991) discussed teachers' opinions on restructuring and found that while teachers agreed with the literature concerning restructuring, they emphasized the student and instructional issues. These teachers' visions included changes in the classroom, such as interdisciplinary curricula, varied student grouping patterns, and instruction that included basic literacy as well as "critical thinking, creativity, inquisitiveness, and independence of thought" (Murphy, Everston, & Radnofsky, 1991, p. 144). Teachers' vision also included school changes that would result in more participatory and decision- making roles for teachers. Increased teacher leadership has been reported by Bellon and Beaudry, 1992; Boles and Troen, 1992; and Wasley, 1991. Boles and Troen (1992) found from their personal experience with restructuring that their vision for improved student achievement included changes in instructional approaches and teacher leadership roles. Similarly, other researchers found that teachers included the need to change the school's structures and instructional methods in order to address students' needs (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Murphy, Everston, & Radnofsky, 1991; Wasley, 1991). School administrators that have developed a shared vision with their faculty have also created common ground that serves to facilitate or compel action to the realization of this common vision.
The relationship between the teachers' and administrators' vision is important. Administrators' vision tends to encompass the whole system or as described by Manasse (1986) their vision is an organizational vision. Teachers' vision appear to focus primarily on the individual or personal actions for school change. However, closer examination of the two -- teachers' and administrators' visions -- may reveal that both groups of educators are looking at the same vision but attending to different aspects. School administrators that have developed a shared vision with their faculty have also created common ground that serves to facilitate or compel action to the realization of this common vision. Frequently underlying a shared vision are teachers' and administrators' shared values and beliefs, specifically believing that schools are for students' learning. The next section describes this unifying belief that facilitates school change.
The values and beliefs of individuals affect their behavior and in leaders they influence the vision leaders hold of their school or district. Values are principles an individual considers to be important or desirable, for example honest communication; beliefs are ideas considered to be true and on which people are willing to act, for example, believing that all children can learn. Manasse (1986) stated that vision is "based on personal or personalized professional values" (p. 152). He also states that "visionary leadership demands a clear sense of personal and organizational values" (p. 151). Seeley's (1992) paper on visionary leadership includes discussion of the need to be aware of leaders' values because "there is no way for leaders to avoid moral responsibility" (p. 24). He states that visions are "normative statements" (p. 24) and consequently "whoever would embrace them or urge others to embrace them are responsible for their moral content" (p. 25). The connection between leaders' values or beliefs and their vision for their organizations is important. Unfortunately, there is minimal information concerning the impact of values and beliefs on the leadership abilities of effective leaders or instructional leaders.
The limited studies of the values and beliefs of effective educators indicate slight differences among superintendents, principals, and teachers. All three groups place high value on students' learning. In addition to believing that schools are for students' learning, effective superintendents are loyal to their community. Effective school principals strongly believe in meeting the instructional needs of all their students. Reports concerning teachers' sense of efficacy indicate that they value students' learning and that students' success is rewarding and motivating to teachers.
The values and beliefs of superintendents influence their vision as well as their actions. Aplin (1984) stated that "clarity of professional values is related to role effectiveness" (p. 3). In her study, she identified five values that guided a superintendent's work. The first value Aplin identified was that the instructional programs were "the highest priority of the system and decisions were assessed as to whether they enhanced or threatened it" (p. 10). The second value this superintendent had was "equity in person relationships and instructional decisions" (p. 10). "Practices of delegation, teaming, flexibility of process and incremental planning with extensive communication" (p. 11) was the third value listed by Aplin. "The fourth value held was the need to retain a high level of local control. . . .The fifth value disclosed was his belief that the quality of decision is improved if there has been free and honest disclosure among interested parties" (p. 11). Aside from Aplin's in- depth study of one superintendent's values, limited information exists on this aspect of district administrators. However, the studies that do exist provide information on superintendents' values; two common values and beliefs held by these administrators emerge.
The first was a belief that the purpose of their school system is to meet the instructional needs of students (Aplin, 1984; Harrington-Lueker, 1991; Pajack & Glickman, 1989; Papalewis, 1988; Schmuck & Schmuck, 1989). Papalewis (1988) reported that along with remarks about how the superintendent's vision contributed to the district's success, district personnel commented that this administrator "never compromised his goals or philosophy that we are here because of and for the students" (p. 161). Pajack and Glickman (1989) stated that "the specific value that each superintendent seemed to exemplify was simply 'the children come first'" (p. 62). This belief, students' educational needs as the school system's priority, was consistently identified in superintendents that facilitated school improvement (Harrington-Lueker, 1991; Pajack & Glickman, 1989; Papalewis, 1988; Schmuck & Schmuck, 1989). In addition to valuing students as the top priority, superintendents believe that their office can serve to promote this value. According to Pitner and Ogawa (1989), "a major occupational attraction of the superintendency was the expectation that they would be able to wield the influence of their office to improve education" (p. 58).
The second value commonly held by superintendents was loyalty to the community their school district served (Crowson & Morris, 1990; Pitner & Ogawa, 1989; Wilson, 1980). This loyalty includes a keen understanding of the community's values as well as consistent participation in community activities. The latter is supported by Wilson's (1980) observation that outstanding Ohio superintendents were active participants in their communities by being involved in civic and social organizations.
Few studies have revealed a direct link between the superintendents' and communities' values; none discussed the impact of the connection of superintendents' and communities' values to district improvement. The match between a community's values and those of the superintendent appeared in two studies (Crowson and Morris, 1990; Pitner and Ogawa, 1989). Pitner and Ogawa found a commonly held belief of superintendents that they "must see to it that their schools' programs and methods of operation were consistent with their communities' values" (p. 50). However, it has not been established that a correlation between superintendent and community values promotes school improvement.
Furthermore, additional studies present contradictory data that fuel the need to investigate the impact, if any, of common superintendent and community values. Tyack and Hansot (1982) suggest that superintendents' value orientations have remained constant, representing "old-time" (p. 170) qualities such as hard work, morality, order, and respectability. However, according to the National Center of Education Information's Profiles of School Administrators in the U.S., the views of the general public differed from those of school administrators. Most superintendents and principals gave public schools higher marks and were at odds with the general public and parents of school age children on the issues of busing and sex education. Opinions of school administrators and the general public about the quality of public schools, school improvement, and school performance differ greatly (Feistritzer, 1988). How these major differences between superintendents and the general public regarding public educational systems have an impact on the leadership abilities of executive educators needs to be explored. Beliefs about students' ability to learn and teachers' ability to teach affect a principal's leadership behaviors.
Principals' values and beliefs influence their vision of the school as well as their behaviors (Glasman, 1984; Greenfield, 1991; Hallinger, Bickman, & Davis, 1990; Krug, Scott, & Ahadi, 1990). In an in-depth study of an elementary principal, Greenfield (1991) stated that the "principal's moral orientation is important to understand because it colors practically everything this principal does on a daily basis" (p. 6). Beliefs about students' ability to learn and teachers' ability to teach affect a principal's leadership behaviors. Krug, Scott, and Ahadi's (1990) study "designed to identify and understand the personal beliefs and goals shared by effective school leaders" (p. 2) found that while there was little difference between the activities of effective and ineffective principals, the meanings they attributed to their activities were significantly different. They concluded that "the way a principal interprets a particular activity (beliefs) -- [is] of primary importance in explaining differences between effective and less effective principals" (p. 2). Contrasting this finding is Avi-Itzhak's and Ben-Peretz's (1987) study that attempted to determine how values, personal background, and organizational factors influenced principals' change facilitator style. They found that personal background factors, such as type of education, and organizational factors, such as school size, were more important than values.
While effective principals tend to believe that the purpose of the school is to meet the instructional needs of all students, Hallinger and Murphy (1986) have reported that there are differences in the beliefs and the expectations of principals of low and high socio-economic students. "Principals in the high-SES effective schools expected an academic emphasis and task orientations in classrooms but encouraged teachers to implement a broad curriculum. Their counterparts in the low-SES effective schools implemented a more narrowly defined curriculum and allocated more time for basic skill instruction" (Hallinger & Murphy 1986 p. 339).
Teachers value working with students. Compared with the general adult population who identify "a good salary" and "job security" (Feistritzer, 1986, p. iii) as the most satisfying aspects of a job, teachers identify as the three most satisfying aspects of teaching:
- "a chance to use your mind and abilities",
- "a chance to work with young people -- see young people develop", and
- "appreciation for a job well done" (Feistritzer, 1986, p. iii).
Greenfield (1991) commented that teachers' work was not "motivated by bureaucratic mandate or directives from superiors, but by a moral commitment to children rooted in their awareness of the needs of these children and their belief about the significance of their roles as teachers, in these children's lives" (p. 8). Murphy, Everston, and Radnofsky's (1991) report on teachers' opinions on general restructuring issues found that teachers' ideas were more student focused, emphasized a school environment where teachers get to know students on a more personal basis and promoted the concept that teachers and students were "colearners" (p. 142). In addition, these teachers emphasized their role in addressing students' social and academic needs such as the need to improve students' self-esteem, to increase student responsibility, and to teach lifelong learning, "encourage students to challenge themselves. . .develop a sense of excitement about their education" (p. 144).
Teachers believe that they have an impact on student achievement (Rosenholtz, 1987; Sarason, 1982). "The primary rewards for most teachers come from students' academic accomplishments -- from feeling certain about their own capacity to affect student development" (Rosenholtz, 1987 p. 188). Sarason (1982) stated that project implementation was influenced by the "belief that the teacher can help even the most difficult or unmotivated students" (p. 77). Teacher participation in pilot site-based decision-making schools was motivated by teachers' believing that the program would help students (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992). Boles and Troen (1992) reported that their restructuring of teacher roles was prompted by the need to meet the needs of students, especially those participating in pull-out programs.
Despite teachers' general valuing of working with students and believing that they have an impact on students' learning, there are differences in teachers' beliefs and expectations for high and low socio- economic students. Hallinger and Murphy (1986) reported that even when the low wealth schools were achieving, teachers' expectations were lower than those for students at wealthier schools; they believed they had minimal parental support and therefore assigned less homework and stressed the basic curriculum. "Differences in curricular and instructional practices suggest that the manner in which staff implement curriculum and instruction is filtered through their perceptions, beliefs and expectations concerning student ability and community background" (Hallinger & Murphy, 1986b, p. 154).
How teachers' values and beliefs impact their leadership skills needs to be studied. Teachers valuing working with students and believing they have influence on students' achievement may prove to be significant as teachers assume more leadership roles especially as recent restructuring efforts and site based management are implemented and studied. The limited information on teacher leaders and on correlations between values and leadership abilities of superintendents, principals, and teachers demonstrates the need to investigate this aspect of leadership.
The relationship between educators' values and beliefs and their impact on school improvement needs to be explored. Despite the limited information that does exist, believing that schools are for students' learning frequently surfaced as a common characteristic of leaders that promote school change. Effective superintendents believe that students come first; effective principals believe in meeting the instructional needs of the students. Teachers value working with students and believe that they have an impact on their achievement. They have the shared belief that students' learning is of primary importance. The literature revealed that these individuals' also shared a common value. They valued the human resources -- the contributions, talents, and efforts -- of others in their organization. A description of this characteristic follows.
Leaders for change recognize that the people in the organization are its greatest resource. "To lead change the leader must believe without question that people are the most important asset of an organization" (Joiner, 1987 p. 2). This characteristic has three dimensions. The first is the leaders' valuing the professional contributions of the staff, while the second is the leaders' ability to relate to people. The third dimension is fostering collaborative relationship. Valuing people's contributions to an organization differs from relating to people and building collaboration. The first acknowledges individuals' skills and expertise, while the latter two involve interpersonal skills. Leaders of change not only include the contributions of employees in determining and realizing the vision but also have the interpersonal skills that help them relate with others and develop collaborative relationships, foster environments and work processes to facilitate the organizations' collective efforts, and address the needs of individuals as well as groups (Joiner, 1987; Barnes & Kriger, 1986). Leaders of change trust the strength of others and value their efforts and contributions in the realization of the organization's vision.
The importance of valuing the personnel of a school or district is also evident in the literature concerning instructional leadership. "One finding to emerge repeatedly in studies of leaders, including studies of educational leaders, is that leaders are people oriented" (Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 16). The American Association of School Administrators (1986) described this aspect of leadership as renewal: leaders' ability to help the organization renew itself and keep the organization dynamic by finding ways to use employees' abilities. Gorton and McIntyre (1978) found that effective principals had as their strongest asset "an ability to work with different kinds of people having various needs, interests, and expectations." (Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 16). Niece (1989) found in his study of principals that "effective instructional leaders are people oriented and interactional" (p. 5). In addition, he reported that the principals themselves had identified eight additional dimensions of instructional leadership not listed by the experts, six of which targeted people or interpersonal abilities (Niece, 1989).
Effective school administrators have been described frequently as valuing their co-workers' efforts and contributions (Becker, et al. 1971; Bossert, et al. 1982; Crowson, 1989; Gorton & McIntyre, 1978; Hoy & Brown, 1988; Niece, 1989; Sarason, 1982). Mahoney (1990) reported that these superintendents allowed their staff to "do the things they do best with their expertise" (p. 26). Furthermore, he stated that these administrators recommended "creating the conditions under which your subordinates can be successful" (p. 26).
Valuing the faculty's contributions and endeavors was often manifested in the principals' support of teachers' instructional efforts. Support of teachers' efforts was demonstrated in four areas: supporting teachers' instructional methods, their modifications of instructional approaches and materials; providing human and material resources for instruction; providing non-evaluative comments on instructional practices, and protecting teachers' time and efforts from non- instructional tasks (Bossert et al., 1982; Méndez-Morse, 1991). Sarason (1982) stated that principals' contributions to the implementation of a new project rested not in direct, programmatic advice, "but in giving moral support to the staff" (p. 77).
Ability to relate to others is the second dimension of valuing the human resources of a school system and a common characteristic of effective administrators (Aplin, 1984; Crowson & Morris, 1990; Kohan, 1989; Mahoney, 1990; Schmuck and Schmuck, 1989; Wilson, 1980). Crowson and Morris (1990) stated that superintendents frequently commented on the need to have "an ability to relate to people" (p. 54) as an important aspect of their position. One superintendent commented that "in dealing with change, you have to have a capacity to relate well to all types of people" (Crowson & Morris, 1990, p. 52). Schmuck and Schmuck (1989) reported that the people-oriented superintendents they studied had the interpersonal skills that enabled them to "develop a strengthened management team, improve attitudes of students toward school, renew trust between the board and teachers, [and] enhance staff involvement" (p. 4). Wilson (1980) found that the successful superintendent "is a very personable and friendly individual who believes in the importance of human relations skills and demonstrates them daily" (p. 20). Becker, et al. stated that effective principals "had an ability to work effectively with people" (p. 3). Mahoney (1990) investigated the characteristics of outstanding superintendents and included in his list "being able to work effectively with people" (p. 27). School administrators provide an environment that encourages and promotes collaborative relationships.
The ability to relate to others has an impact on the third dimension, fostering collaborative relationships within school systems. School administrators provide an environment that encourages and promotes collaborative relationships. They form teams, support team efforts, develop the skills that groups and individuals need, and provide the necessary human and material resources to realize the school or district vision.
While effective school administrators value and encourage staff efforts and contributions to school improvement, teachers tend to be the recipients of and not the initiators of such support and consequently some teacher leaders report different experiences. Wasley (1991) reported that although the teacher leaders she studied personally benefited from collaborative relationships with fellow teachers, they also experienced additional isolation than that generally experienced by teachers. These teacher leaders were isolated because, according to Wasley's report, in each case the faculty lacked a clear understanding of the role of a teacher leader, and the faculty had not participated in the selection of the teacher leader. This lack of clear understanding and faculty participation undermined these teacher leaders' efforts. Wasley categorized the collaborative relationships into three types: mentoring, division of labor, and partnering, and stated that "each form of collaboration required different kinds of interactions between teachers and suggested various assumptions about the nature of teaching, leading, and learning" (Wasley, 1991, p. 145). While teacher leaders valued the human resources of their peers, their role appeared to hinder their ability to work cooperatively with their fellow teachers. However, Boles and Troen (1992) reported that their team approach to instruction and the three teacher roles of their staff development program -- teacher/researcher, teacher/trainer, and teacher/curriculum writer -- enhanced teacher collaboration. These teacher leaders listed opportunities to speak with other teachers about "how student teaching should be structured" (p. 56) and the use of a teacher-developed integrated curriculum that "measurably improved" (p. 56) student work as examples of some of the benefits.
The characteristic of valuing human resources manifests in three dimensions: valuing the contributions and efforts of co-workers, relating effectively with others, and fostering collaboration. Teachers and teacher leaders tend to be the recipients of these three dimensions and not the initiators. However, one example of teachers as the originators of actions that demonstrated this characteristic was found in the report of Boles and Troen (1992). Valuing the human resources of an organization is a characteristic of effective leaders of school change that is connected to the next descriptor of these leaders: their ability to communicate and listen.
Foster's (1985) discussion of leadership stresses the importance of communication; he states that "leadership is conditioned on language" (in Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 18). Mazzarella and Grundy (1989) noted that "effective school leaders in particular, are good at communicating" and have the aptitude and skills "they need to interact well with others; they know how to communicate" (p. 18).
The ability to communicate and listen is a characteristic commonly used to describe effective superintendents (Aplin, 1984; Crowson & Morris, 1990; Mahoney, 1990; Pitner & Ogawa, 1989). According to Pitner and Ogawa (1989), "superintending is communicating" (p. 49). They found that the superintendents they studied considered the "ability to communicate with people as a requisite skill of their job" (p. 51). In addition to being able to communicate, superintendents are good listeners. Mahoney (1990) reported that the superintendents he studied recommended: "Be a good listener. . . .[O]ften, people aren't looking for instant comments or solutions; all they want is for someone to hear them out" (p. 28). Crowson & Morris (1990) included similar advice from superintendents in their study.
Researchers also describe the ability to communicate as a characteristic of effective principals (Blumberg & Greenfield, 1986; Becker et al., 1971; Gorton & McIntyre, 1978; Niece, 1989). Blumberg and Greenfield (1986) found in their in-depth study of eight outstanding principals that, among the five characteristics they held in common, one was "extremely well-developed expressive abilities" (in Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 18). Principals' communication characteristic includes their listening skills (Becker et al., 1971; Blumberg & Greenfield, 1986; Gorton & McIntyre, 1978). Becker et al. (1971) found that principals of outstanding schools "listened well to parents, teachers, and pupils" (p. 3). Teacher change agents studied by Nickse (1977) reported that strategies such as "developing one-to-one communication with teachers in the lounge" (p. 15) and listening to others, were facilitative in implementing change at these teachers' schools.
The communicating and listening skills of superintendents, principals, and teachers are an important characteristic of leaders who facilitate school change. It is the basis for their ability to articulate a vision, develop a shared vision, express their belief that schools are for the students' learning, and demonstrate that they value the human resources of their peers and subordinates. Being an effective communicator and listener is also a key ingredient of the following characteristics, being proactive and taking risks, of leaders of school change.
They take the initiative, anticipate and recognize changes in their organizational environment, and begin to explore possible courses of action to respond to those changes. Pejza (1985) stated that a "leader continuously scans the environment noticing where change is needed" (p. 10). Leaders of educational change are proactive in their efforts to change and improve their schools and districts. They are "always testing the limits in an effort to change things that no one else believes can be changed" (Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 23). They are proactive because they challenge the status quo of their organization to respond to changes that affect the organization's business. Often these proactive school leaders are described as individuals who do not accept the rules, regulations, or traditions of their schools and districts to limit their change efforts (Blumberg & Greenfield, 1980; Crowson, 1989; Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989; Pezja, 1985; Schmuck & Schmuck, 1989).
Leaders of change recognize shifts in the environment and guide their organization to be responsive to those changes. They are aware of the realities of their environment and thus guide the organization to rethink the vision (Joiner, 1987; Barnes & Kriger, 1986). DeGues (1988) described this ability as organizational learning: "understanding the changes occurring in the external environment and then adapting beliefs and behavior to be compatible with those changes" (in Stata, 1989, p. 67). Leaders of educational change recognize paradigm shifts in areas such as curriculum issues, student needs, and state level policies (Pezja, 1985; Schmuck & Schmuck, 1989). They also constantly scan their school or district community noticing where change is needed. They anticipate the changing needs of their students and take the initiative to identify the appropriate course of action.
Leaders of change focus the organization away from maintaining the status quo to exploring various options of the organization's vision. Joiner's (1987) discussion of these leaders of change included the skill to "access the reality of the present and determine the gaps that exist" (p. 3- 4). They guide the discussion of how continuing the organization's current way of operating will shortchange the organization and thus become advocates for a different vision. Educational leaders of change challenge the status quo of their school systems by questioning established procedures when they do not serve the needs of the students or their staff (Becker et al., 1971; Blumberg & Greenfield, 1980; Crowson, 1989; Wynne & McPherson, 1983). Crowson's (1989) study of the ethical aspects of school administrators' decision-making includes the finding that they would use the organization's structures and procedures against itself "so that the ultimate client, the student, is best served" (p. 413). He found that when decisions contradicted the district's norms, the primary beneficiaries of such decisions were the students and their parents and that the school staff form the secondary group of beneficiaries.
Effective superintendents are proactive and confront rather than avoid, anticipate instead of react to situations and circumstances (Crowson & Morris, 1990; Mahoney, 1990; Pitner & Ogawa, 1989; Schmuck and Schmuck, 1989). Mahoney (1990) reported that "successful superintendents prefer to deal with [problems] head-on -- to act on the situation rather than try to avoid it" (p.26). Schmuck and Schmuck (1989) described the proactive activities of two superintendents they studied. One had regularly scheduled meetings to discuss district problems; another superintendent met with African-American and Anglo-American administrators to plan meetings for students, parents and community members to prepare for an impending desegregation ruling in their district. Pitner and Ogawa (1989) reported that superintendents included methods for identifying emerging concerns and attitudes; they communicated with different constituencies to "map out the terrain of opinions and preferences" (p. 50). The strategy included knowing the correct time when an idea would be likely to gain acceptance.
Effective principals also are proactive (Becker et al., 1971; Blumberg & Greenfield, 1986; Crowson, 1989; Hoy & Brown, 1988; Pejza, 1985). Pejza (1985) stated that "a successful leader is one who aims at something no else can see and hits it" (p. 10). Blumberg and Greenfield (1986) found that the school principals in their research "were continually alert for opportunities to make things happen and if the opportunity didn't present themselves, they created them" (in Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 20-21). They noted that effective principals did not merely accept all the rules and customs of their schools or districts; they always tested "the limits in an effort to change things that no one else believes can be changed" (in Mazzarella & Grundy, 1989, p. 23). Hoy and Brown (1988) reported that teachers prefer principals to be proactive and warned that "principals who fear to take a stand, who hesitate to initiate structure lest they be accused of being authoritarian, are disadvantaged in leading their teachers; they are likely to lose respect" ( p. 36).
Proactive teacher leaders have been discussed in several studies (Bellon & Beaudry, 1992; Boles & Troen, 1992; Nickse, 1977, Wasley, 1991). Wasley (1991) described how the teacher leaders she studied were proactive. Each of these teacher leaders were in positions created to provide assistance in instructional methods intended to improve teachers' effectiveness. One teacher leader proactively conceptualized and organized the position of teacher leader in the district; another tailored the role to better match her knowledge and skills to perform the functions of the teacher leader position. The pilot site-based decision- making program studied by Bellon and Beaudry (1992) included descriptions of teachers taking the initiative to be part of this program. Boles and Troen (1992) reported their personal experiences as teachers in the efforts to restructure their school. Some of the proactive strategies they used were: write articles, present ideas at conferences, allocate money, and establish a collaborative relationship with a nearby college. Similar proactive activities were reported by Nickse (1977) in his study of teacher change agents. Teacher leaders' proactive activities are beginning to appear in the literature and more can be anticipated as teachers assume a more participatory role in site based management and restructuring efforts.
Superintendents, principals and teachers that are effective leaders of school change are proactive. They initiate action, anticipate and recognize changes in their environment that will affect their schools and districts, and challenge the status quo, the established ways of operating, that interfere with realization of their organizations' vision. This characteristic of being proactive merges with the following descriptor of leaders of school change -- being a risk taker.
"Change must be initiated by leaders who are willing to risk their reputations for the future benefit of their companies" (Joiner, 1987 p. 4). Risks are not taken haphazardly but tend to be considered as opportunities that will improve the organization. Crowson (1989) describes the risks principals took when they disobeyed or bent the rules when making ethically laden decisions as "creative insubordination" (p. 412). His study reveals that when certain decisions would not serve the needs of their students, staff or the school, these principals chose to disobey or at least bend the district's rules. He reports that principals risked "be[ing] 'insubordinate' in the face of organizational/professional norms or rules" (p. 429) in to serve student, staff and school needs. The ethical choices principals had to make were such that the "principals feel they owe it to their children and to their school to be insubordinate if necessary in the children's interest" (p. 430).
Leaders of change provide the needed stimulus for change. Calling attention to the possibilities, they take risks and encourage others to initiate change. School leaders encourage their staff to experiment with various instructional methods to meet the academic needs of the students. They guide and provoke the staff to explore options that more adequately address the needs of their students and provide the environment that makes risk-taking safer. They provide their staff with opportunities to consider and implement curriculum changes as well as encourage experimentation with different arrangements of organizational structures, such as schedules and class size. However, as Mazzarella and Grundy (1989) noted "even though effective leaders stretch the rules, they are not rebels; they do play the game" (p. 2). Crowson & Morris (1990) reported similar findings in their study of successful superintendents and stated that absent from their career histories "was an avoidance of risk" (p. 40). Becker, et al. (1971) found that successful principals "found it difficult to live within the constraints of the bureaucracy; they frequently violated the chain of command, seeking relief for their problems from whatever sources that were potentially useful" (p. 3) and yet these principals "expressed concern for the identification of the most appropriate procedure through which change could be secured" (p. 3). School leaders encourage their staff to experiment with various instructional methods to meet the academic needs of the students.
Few examples of teachers as risk takers are found in the literature. Waugh and Punch (1987) found that teachers' participation in the implementation of a change depended on variables including "the extent that fears and uncertainties associated with the change are alleviated" (p. 243). Nickse (1977) stated that one reason for limited teacher leadership in change, which involves risk taking, was "their fear of reprisal, not only from administrators but also from some of their colleagues" (p. 6). He described some of the experiences of the teacher change agents he studied as, "bureaucratic frustrations, fear of retaliation" (p. 14-15) and found that despite these reactions, the teachers learned that "you must believe totally in your goal, have all the data, stick to your topic, study each aspect without flinching and then charge ahead" (p. 17). Boles and Troen (1992) described themselves as "two tenured teachers, with no power, beholden to no one, and with nothing to lose" (p. 53) as they began their restructuring efforts. Even as these two teacher leaders experienced various setbacks and rejections during their initial restructuring efforts, they continued. Their program gained support and eventually expanded to other schools. Reports concerning the limitations on risk taking by teachers and teacher leaders are emerging and more can be anticipated as teachers become more involved in leadership roles in site based management and restructuring efforts.
Principals and superintendents that lead and guide others in school change take risks but not carelessly or without forethought. Furthermore they encourage others to be innovative by providing an environment that makes this safer. Teachers appear to be reluctant risk takers for a variety of reason although Boles and Troen (1992) provided an example of their risk taking during their restructuring efforts. Current educational reform efforts may change this hesitance in teachers.
Six characteristics: being visionary, believing that schools are for learning, valuing human resources, communicating and listening effectively, being proactive, and taking risks, are common to successful leaders of educational change. Furthermore, these characteristics are indicative of these educational leaders' successful performance in the two dimensions considered necessary for effective leadership -- initiating structure, which is primarily concern for organizational tasks, and consideration, which is the concern for individuals and the interpersonal relations between them. Leaders of educational change illustrate this with their vision and belief that the purpose of schools is students' learning. Valuing human resources as well as communicating and listening are directly associated with the dimension of consideration. Being a proactive leader and a risk taker demonstrate the dimension of initiating structure. Leaders of educational change respond to the human as well as the task aspects of their schools and districts. "Effective change requires skilled leadership that can integrate the soft human elements with hard business actions" (Joiner, 1987 p. 1).
Page ContentsImplications for further research
This paper began with a brief review of key leadership concepts and this literature revealed that effective leadership in an organization is critical. Initial examinations of leaders reported the differences between leaders and followers. These attempts to isolate specific individual traits led to the conclusion that no single characteristic can distinguish leaders from non-leaders. Situational leadership revealed the complexity of leadership but still proved to be insufficient because the theories could not predict which leadership skills would be more effective in certain situations. The contingency models focused on the fit between personality characteristics, leaders' behaviors, and situational variables but did not clarify which or what combination of these determine effective leadership. Subsequent leadership studies differentiated effective from non-effective leaders. The comparison of effective and non-effective leaders led to the identification of two dimensions, initiating structures and consideration, and revealed that effective leaders were high performers in both. The situation approach to leadership supports the contention that effective leaders are able to address both the tasks and human aspects of their organizations.
Leadership continues to be recognized as a complex enterprise, and as recent studies assert, effective leaders are more than managers. They have vision, develop a shared vision, and value the contributions and efforts of their co-workers in the organization. Transformational leadership holds promise to further an understanding of effective leadership, especially the leadership needed for changing organizations.
This synthesis also sought to examine the literature to identify characteristics that appear to facilitate or impede the implementation of school improvement interventions, especially those likely to benefit at- risk students. The review of leadership literature has led to an initial identification of the six characteristics of leaders of educational change which are:
- having vision,
- believing that the schools are for learning,
- valuing human resources,
- being a skilled communicator and listener,
- acting proactively, and
- taking risks.
Administrators' vision tends to encompass the whole system or, as described by Manasse (1986), their vision is an organizational vision. Teachers' vision appears to focus primarily on the individual or personal actions for school change. However, the two may be different aspects of the same vision. School administrators that have developed a shared vision with their faculty have also created common ground that serves to facilitate or compel action to the realization of this common vision. Underlying a shared vision are teachers' and administrators' shared belief that schools are for students' learning. The connection between leaders' values or beliefs and their vision for their organizations is important.
Effective superintendents believe that students come first; effective principals believe in meeting the instructional needs of the students. Teachers value working with students and believe that they have an impact on their achievement. They have the shared belief that students' learning is of primary importance. This common ground appears to facilitate the development of a shared vision.
The literature revealed further that these individuals' also shared a common value. They valued the human resources -- the contributions, talents, and efforts -- of others in their organization. The characteristic of valuing human resources manifest in three dimensions: valuing the contributions and efforts of co-workers, relating effectively with others, and fostering collaboration. This characteristic of effective leaders of school change that is connected to their ability to communicate and listen.
The communicating and listening skills of superintendents, principals, and teachers are the basis for their ability to articulate a vision, develop a shared vision, express their belief that schools are for the students' learning, and demonstrate that they value the human resources of their peers and subordinates. Being an effective communicator and listener is also a key component to being proactive and taking risks.
Superintendents, principals and teachers that are effective leaders of school change are proactive. They initiate action, anticipate and recognize changes in their environment that will affect their schools and districts, and challenge the status quo, the established ways of operating, that interfere with realization of their organizations' vision. This characteristic of being proactive merges with being a risk taker.
Principals and superintendents that lead and guide others in school change take risks but not carelessly or without forethought. Furthermore they encourage others to be risk takers by providing an environment that makes this safer. Teachers appear to be reluctant risk takers for a variety of reasons, although current educational reform efforts may change this aspect of teachers.
In the introduction, several uses for this paper were suggested. For those in the throes of implementing a change, this information can be used to:
- provide a guide for identifying in oneself and companions the characteristics that are facilitating the innovation's implementation;
- determine which leadership characteristics are most essential for their unique situation;
- plan professional development activities that would foster and encourage the acquisition of these characteristics; and
- design learning activities and experiences that foster,promote, encourage, and enhance the formation of these characteristics in educators.
The data regarding the characteristics of leaders of educational change may be used as a guideline for self-evaluation or for the selection of individuals who will lead or participate in implementing school change. However, it is anticipated that any use of these characteristics for evaluation and selection will be accompanied with a thorough understanding of the unique needs of a particular school, community, or district. Finally this paper has provided an increased focus on the types of individuals that lead educational change.
Although this paper represents an initial effort to examine the personal characteristics of educational leaders that appear to facilitate the implementation of school improvement interventions for at-risk students, it has also fostered questions regarding the personal characteristics needed of the leaders involved in these efforts. The following questions are implications for further research.
- Do the characteristics discussed represent a composite picture of leaders of educational change or are there other characteristics that have not surfaced?
- Is there a unique formula for these characteristics that educators attempting to implement an educational innovation or a systemic change at the school or district level should seek to possess?
- Does having congruent values between a community and a superintendent promote and encourage school improvement?
- What is the influence of leaders' values and beliefs on their leadership skills?
- Can these characteristics be learned or are they innate? If they can be acquired, how does this occur?
This paper represents an initial attempt to identify the characteristics of leaders who initiate, guide, and provoke school change. Six common characteristics were found in superintendents, principals, and teachers who have experienced the adventure of school change. The data discussed in this synthesis is timely considering current endeavors to restructure districts and schools. Further research attempting to answer the questions that have emerged from this literature review will further our understanding of what types of individuals can lead the needed school reforms as well as provide information on whether or not these characteristics can be acquired throughout an educator's career. The possibility of being able to acquire and use these characteristics holds great promise for those participating in and leading the educational reforms of today.
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