Choosing a leadership style and defining one’s philosophy of leadership is highly dependent on the leader’s natural leadership traits, the culture and personality of the staff and the values and mission of the organization. The key to positive leadership is a developed understanding that, “culture- that amalgam of traditions, beliefs, and norms-is the essence of an (organization).” (Krajewski, 2004). Luckily for me, I do possess this understanding. The foundation of my leadership philosophy is grounded in the concepts of servant leadership, spiritual leadership, democratic leadership in communities.
I have always believed that effective leadership encourages everyone to participate in the decision making process. The effective leader is one who can clearly articulate the vision of the organization to all stakeholders in a meaningful and accessible way. The simplest way to describe my personal belief about effective leadership is that , “the (leader) needs to model what management researcher Robert Greenleaf called servant leadership- a philosophy that encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and ethical use of power and empowerment.” (Krajewski, 2004). My mission is, as a leader and a follower, to empower those around me to use their natural talents to assist the organization as well as themselves.
I also aim to develop, through example, a learning community among my co-workers. As a leader, my goal is to be a collaborator. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table. It is my hope that they environment that I co-create encourages awareness and cultivation of this authenticity. DePree (1989) defines leadership as follows: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”
Servant leadership is an approach to leadership and service whereby the leader is servant first and leader second. Spears (1995) defines it as “a long-term, transformational approach to life and work; in essence, a way of being that has potential to create positive change throughout our society” (p.4). Servant leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.
The link between servant leadership and spiritual leadership is quite strong and clearly demonstrated by the question: What are my values or what do I determine to be of worth? The answer to this question is a long, but certainly not exhaustive list of traits that describe a leader who is driven to be a servant leader with a developed sense of spirituality.
Luckcock (2008) illustrates this as a set of principles that characterize spiritually intelligent leadership. These include for example, Self -Awareness (knowing what I believe in and value), Spontineity (living in and being responsive to the moment), Being Vision-and Value-led (acting from principles and deep beliefs), living accordingly Holism (seeing larger patterns, relationships, and connections), and a Sense of Vocation (feeling called upon to serve a higher purpose)”.
I believe that Dana Zohar and myself share a set of values as described in Leader to Leader, “I envisage myself becoming one of those business leaders who are “servant leaders” – leaders who serve not just stockholders, colleagues, employees, products, and customers, but also the community, the planet, humanity, the future and life itself” (Zohar, 2005). Many of these qualities I currently possess or am actively developing as a result of my participation in this leadership program.
Dana Zohar’s (2005) 12 principles of spiritually intelligent leadership p.387
Self -awareness: knowing what I believe in and value, and what deeply motivates me.
Spontaneity: living in and being responsive to the moment.
Being vision-and-value-led: acting from principles and deep beliefs, and living accordingly.
Holism: seeing larger patters, relationships, and connections, having a sense of belonging.
Compassion: having the quality of ‘feeling-with’ and deep empathy.
Celebration of diversity: valuing other people for their differences, not despite them.
Field independence: standing against the crowd and having one’s own convictions.
Humility: having the sense of being a player in a larger drama, of one’s true place in the world.
Tendency to ask fundamental ‘why’ questions: needing to understand things and get to the bottom of them.
Ability to reframe: standing back from a situation or problem and seeing the bigger picture; seeing problems in a wider context.
Positive use of adversity: learning and growing from mistakes, setbacks, and suffering.
Sense of vocation: feeling called upon to serve, to give something back.
For several years I have been involved at a leadership level in the education community. First, I was a health educator, then a prenatal counselor, then a yoga teacher, then a kindergarten and first grade teacher. I have developed community programs for adults and families in the Austin area. Now, I work on 2 school boards, one private, one public. It seems that it makes no difference what area of the educational arena I am working in. The qualities demanded of by the people in these communities are the same. This realization has resulted in, “opening up a wider appreciation of the importance of spirituality in school leadership” (Luckcock, 2008).
There is a clear link between the spiritually guided leader and a democratically oriented one, as Luckcock continues, “the democratic style is depicted as an especially participative style in which the employees are trusted to develop appropriate direction for themselves and the organization…(in addition, the) leadership style is political in respect of being interested in the welfare and will of the people making up the intimate body of the organization.
According to Luckcock (2008), the democratic leader will encourage professional aspirations in colleagues, encouraging employees to establish long-range development goals for themselves and to think with care, creativity or critically about the fundamental philosophical purpose of education, or their own personal vocation.” The following is a diagram illustrating the Democratic style of leadership that I hope to embue.
From figure 1 LPSH leadership styles Luckcock (2008) p.376
The participative style
Trust that employees can develop the appropriate direction for themselves and the organization
Invites employees to participate in the development of decisions
Holds many meetings and listens to employees’ concerns
Rewards adequate performance; rarely gives negative feedback
The developmental style
Helps employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses
Encourages employees to establish long range development goals
Reaches agreement with employees on the manager’s and employee’s ongoing roles in the developing process
Provides ongoing instruction as well as feedback
May trade off immediate standards of performance for long term development
Schools as Communities
Naylor, Willimon, and Osterberg (1996), define a community as “a partnership of free people committed to the care and nurturing of each other’s mind, body, heart, and soul through participatory means.” This statement is especially important in the realm of public school education. As we tend to spend more time with our school communities than with our families, neighbors or church communities, “knowledge of ethnic mannerisms, cultural habits, and community customs is necessary if school staff members are to establish a lasting commitment to various community groups and constructive relationships with the polyglot student body” (Valverde, 1976).
Valverde (1976) asserts, that as educators, we must acknowledge that, “a more favorable leadership philosophy must be adopted by staff members in multicultural community schools. The core attitude of this philosophy must be that community individuals, wherever feasible, shall be received as full partners in the educational process”. Teachers and school leaders play an integral part in the development of future generation’s appreciation for ethics, morals and values. I take this role very seriously and try my best to model best behavior for every one of the members of my school community.
The following is a list of phrases that I feel ought to be the calling card of all persons who seek to be leaders in schools. These traits, we as a society and I personally need to see reflected, fostered and modeled in Americans with great vigor. I seek to have and to be: culturally relevant…respectful…trustworthy…ethical…
committed to vision…humility…transformational…value driven…purpose…direction…vision…care for community…continuous learner…manager of change…nimble…flexible…embracing of diversity…sense of humor…loyalty…empowering…effective delegator…inclusionary format…sharing leadership practice…philosophy of inclusion…authentic communication…genuine caring…understanding appropriate roles and responsibilities…maintaining an open relationship…self-management…self-awareness…transparency… efficient…
authenticity…social awareness…service orientation…
developing others…conflict management…empathy…embrace collectivity…authentic concern with group preferences…maintenance of group… harmony…cohesion…consensus…strengthening community…leading learning…securing accountability…care for the whole person…sense of duty…committed to the public interest…ethically centered…community-building focus…conscience…intuition…ability to reframe…clear sense of direction…make tough decisions…inspire loyalty…strong emotional empathy…
Regardless of the philosophy behind the leadership, it is important to realize that flexibility and versatility are paramount to successful implementation of this philosophy. Effective leadership requires reflection on the part of the leader to understand what are their purpose, vision, values and principles. This must be coupled with open and clear communication of these ideals. For this reason, I have been developing a leadership philosophy over the course of the last several semesters. By following my leadership philosophy closely, I hope to become a transformational leader to many people in the communities in which I will work over the course of my career.
Dantley, M.E. & Tillman, L.C. (2006). Social justice and moral transformative leadership. In Catherine Marshall & Maricela Olivia (Eds.), Leadership for Social Justice: Making Revolutions in Education. (pp. 16-30). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
DePree, M. (1989). Leadership is an art. New York: Dell Publishing.
Krajewski, B. & Trevino J. (2004). Building a Culture of Trust. American School Board Journal, 9, 32-34.
Luckcock, T. (2008). Spiritual Intelligence in Leadership Development: A Practitioner Inquiry into the Ethical Orientation of Leadership Styles in LPSH. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 36(3), 373-391.
Naylor, T.H., Willimon, W.H. and R. Osterberg (1996). The search for community in the workplace. Business & Society Review (97), 42-47.
Stramba, L. (2003). Servant Leadership Practices. The Community College Enterprise, 103-113.
Valverde, L.A. (1976). Leadership Compatible with Multicultural Community Schools. Educational Leadership, 2, 344-347.
Zenger, J.H. & Folkman, J. (2002). The extraordinary leader: Turning good managers into great leaders. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Zohar, D. (2005). Spiritually Intelligent Leadership, Leader to Leader 38, 45-51.