A leader is someone who can support “…followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations- the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations- of both leaders and followers” (Burns, 1978, p. 19). In order to be an effective leader, one needs to be aware of the organizational culture present. Schein (1992) describes how “A deeper understanding of cultural issues in groups and organizations is necessary to decipher what goes on in them but, even more important, to identify what may be the priority issues for leaders and leadership” (p. 5). A leader cannot identify what goals to work towards without taking into consideration how the organizational culture will be impacted by the implementation of new reforms.
An effective leader is then able to balance how they will implement such changes based on the organizational culture. One way in which a leader may support change is utilizing the process of situational leadership whereby the leader takes into consideration the dynamics associated with “(1) the amount of guidance and direction (task behavior) a leader gives; (2) the amount of socioemotional support (relationship behavior) a leader provides; and (3) the readiness (“maturity”) level that followers exhibit in performing a specific task, function or objective” (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982, p. 150). An effective leader is able to understand how to utilize situational leadership to support change or maintain the organization in an effective way.
In doing so, the leader views the followers both as an independent person and as a member of the organization. Thus, my theory about what an effective leader is stems from a living systems theory whereby a “deep respect for persons and appreciation of diversity when enacted in classroom instruction and in collegial interactions not only honor the personhood of all individuals and the personal nature of learning, but also disrupt the tendencies to see categories rather than people and to define difference as deficiency or deviance” (Mitchell & Sackney, 2011, p. 31). Schools today are addressing the need for educators to view their students holistically to support student learning. For example, the Ontario Ministry of Education (2013) has stated in the revised social studies curriculum document that “[a]n educator’s awareness of and responsiveness to students’ cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development is critical to their success in school” (p. 4). Thus as is evidenced by both theory and practice, an effective leader must be both respectful and understanding in order to help an organization achieve their collective goals.
Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row.
Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. H. (1982). Management of organizational behaviour: Utilizing human resources (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Mitchell, C., & Sackney, L. (2011). Sustainable learning communities: From managed systems to living systems. Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations, 22(1). 19-38.
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). The Ontario curriculum: Social studies, grades 1 to 6, history and geography, grades 7 and 8. Toronto: Ontario, Ministry of Education.
Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.