Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Good and Great Leadership and Classroom Culture

Teachers are leaders in their classrooms, every bit as much as coaches with their teams or administrators with the school as a whole. How teachers lead has a tremendous impact on the cultures within their classrooms.

One way to think about leadership is to consider leadership not so much as a continuum between bad and great, with good somewhere in between, but rather, to understand effective leadership as the existence of aspects of both ‘good’ and ‘great’.

James R. Bailey, in a September 22, 2016 Harvard Business Review article, explains this view of leadership.

·       ‘Great’ leadership is that which provides clear movement and direction toward fulfilling the mission, holding up the aspects of excellence, and setting goals. This leadership works to equip, inspire, and hold accountable, so that those goals are attained. This is what he calls ‘force’.

·       ‘Good’ leadership protects and supports ethical and moral principles. It focuses on relationships and providing values, ‘direction’, for the organization.

The truly effective leader, the Vital leader, for Bailey, combines both of these, providing clear goals and continual force (inspiring, equipping, and requiring) toward accomplishing them, while at the same time creating an ethical, supportive, trusting environment.

The Amiable leader has good intentions, but the power or the will to implement them is lacking. This creates a stagnant, “pleasant enough place to work, but one bereft of the vitality necessary” to advance the organization’s goals. This leader can be described as amiable—friendly and pleasant. But nothing gets done.

The bottom left quadrant, the Vacant leader, is a combination of lack of force and lack of good direction. “There is none of the energy necessary to compel collective movement to an end goal.” And there is none of the ‘good’ found in upper left. This is a not-good, not-great “cesspool”.

The bottom right, the Maleficent leader, combines great force without direction for good. “It’s an environment of excitable, concentrate participation coupled with dubiously defined purpose.” The ‘great’, without the ‘good’, can result in harm for all involved. 

A classroom culture that is both ‘great’ and ‘good’ is a reflection of the character of the teacher and how that teacher carries out his or her work in the classroom. Classroom teachers strive for an environment that is both predictable and supportive, that works diligently and compellingly toward continual, stretching and inspiring learning. It does this in a classroom that is focused on the goal of wisdom, virtue, and godliness as the context for all the learning going on.

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