Shared Leadership in Schools


Leadership (Photo credit: glennharper)


We have reached the point where schools need a new philosophy of leadership and a new culture.  The growing size, complexity, uncertainty and diversity in schools, allied with societal changes, all conspire to make a new leadership paradigm necessary.

Elmore (2000) asserts that “leadership of schools is beyond the capacity of any one person.”  The principal alone can no longer reasonably be responsible for leadership and all outcomes in a school.  Some of our schools are experiencing problems precisely because we continue to cling to this old model of leadership and management.  This accounts for the isolation experienced by some principals and the feeling of being undervalued that plagues many teachers.  Relations between administration and staff deteriorate in this environment and ultimately teaching and learning suffer.

We must move away from this vertical leadership model which proclaims the primacy of the principal, and move towards shared leadership.  Shared leadership fosters a new culture in schools.  Duignan et al.  (2003) found that it creates a culture in which teachers, students and parents willingly take responsibility for leadership in the school community.

For this to happen principals must feel secure enough to share leadership and management responsibilities among the staff.  A principal must be willing to give up control to some extent.  He or she must create the cultural environment and opportunities for teachers to become leaders and decision makers.  In-house training, mentorship, delegation and recognition of initiative will feature among the tools used by any wise principal in this process of teacher development.

The purpose of leadership in schools is to improve teaching, learning and overall school effectiveness.  This improvement can be attained through shared vision, goals and culture.  The increased participation by staff in collaborative decision-making will strengthen their commitment to the institution and their job satisfaction.  Levels of trust among members of staff and the administration will rise accordingly.  More teachers will stop being critical and will embrace leadership, thereby creating a true learning community.  Professional discourse will be stimulated and new values and relationships will come to the fore.

The principal must promote team spirit and set up various teams in his quest for shared leadership.  He works with them all.  An interesting model of shared leadership is the Turning Points Program which was coordinated by the Center for Collaborative Education in Boston.  It is based on the Turning Points Report by the Carnegie Corporation (1989).

This systemic initiative was designed to change school practices, values and culture.  It has two basic components, namely, shared leadership and decision-making and the creation of effective teacher teams.  Everyone works on solutions to the challenges or problems facing the school and decisions are often made by consensus.  Parents and members of the wider community are involved if necessary.

In an environment of shared leadership, administration and staff respect each other more.  There is greater tolerance for divergent opinions and everyone is focused on the goals which are set.  However, the principal remains the instructional leader and cannot relinquish responsibility for the performance of the school.


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