In some ways, at the highest levels of leadership and administration, the K-12 educational system is run like a nonprofit corporation. There’s a top-down structure that calls for leaders at all levels. While you’ve heard of the value of organizational leadership in a traditional organization – whether a business, non-profit, governmental, or non-governmental organization – the truth is that it’s equally valuable in an educational setting.
Organizational leadership takes a broader and more integrated approach to managing teams than what you’d find in more conventional philosophies of management and administration. Instead of considering just the nuts and bolts of management functions, organizational leadership considers the importance of motivating and inspiring stakeholders, building trust, solving conflicts and complex problems, and nurturing employee relationships.
When the principles and practices of organizational leadership are brought to bear on education, there’s no question of whether you can effectively lead students and faculty. Instead, it becomes about how far you can go in making meaningful improvements to the lives of everyone in the school community.
What Is Organizational Leadership? – Understanding the Theories and Practices
Organizational leadership is a term used to describe the act of creating a vision for your team that aligns with an organization’s mission, and then successfully leading your team toward that vision or goal.
Organizational leadership takes a broader and more integrated approach to managing teams than what you’d find in more conventional philosophies of management and administration. Instead of considering just the nuts and bolts of managing, organizational leadership considers the importance of motivating and inspiring the members of your team. In this environment, a leader’s mission includes building trust, solving conflicts and complex problems, and nurturing employee relationships.
While managing involves directing and coordinating the members of your team, leading involves understanding the unique needs of each teammate and motivating them to work toward a singular goal. Organizational leadership is about more than just setting out processes. It’s about empowering those you lead by considering their input as a way to streamline and improve processes, or design entirely new ones.
The Educational Leader’s Toolkit: How to Use Organizational Leadership in Education
No different from any other organization, school and district leaders apply a set of leadership theories to align the efforts of all faculty members with larger organizational goals and core values.
When pulling directly from the theories, principles, and practices of organizational leadership, that means…
… Creating a Sense of Unity During Times of Change (Change Management)
The COVID pandemic taught everyone just how fragile the organizational structure of schools can be. Lockdowns, remote learning, and disruptions in learning left school communities feeling fractured during the pandemic. During this period of instability, it was up to principals, superintendents, and other educational administrators to maintain a sense of unity and continuity. Often referred to as change management, this important aspect of organizational leadership ensures that leaders serve as guideposts during times of uncertainty and change.
Whether unexpected or planned, change can become a great disruptor in an otherwise-solid educational environment. Skilled educational leaders know how to respond to change and how to confidently lead through periods of change.
For example, during the COVID pandemic, educational leaders were hard at work finding and implementing hybrid and distance-based learning solutions while maintaining a sense of unity through collaboration, communication, and conflict-resolution.
Leaders understand that everyone responds to change differently and that a variety of techniques and solutions must be employed to guide their teams through rough waters.
… Creating a Student-Centered Atmosphere
Educational leaders at all levels should create schools and districts where all decisions are distinctly student-focused. When decisions are focused on elevating student outcomes, everyone benefits. At the district level, this means implementing research-based curriculum planning, development, and design procedures and ensuring that schools and teachers have the funding, materials, training, and resources they need to achieve these goals.
Educational leaders must be resilient and continue to lead during times of change. Despite challenges, they never lose sight of the educational institution’s overall mission: to prepare students with the fundamentals they need for the next phase of their lives.
… Creating Sound Strategies for Accomplishing Larger Organizational Goals
Educational leaders are visionaries, but all that vision doesn’t mean much without also being a master strategist who knows how to get things done. Without a sound strategy and solid plans for implementing it, that vision may never get off the ground. But organizational leadership strategic theories in practice give rocket fuel to that vision:
… Making Ongoing Learning a Priority
Leaders who establish an organizational culture focused on ongoing learning create teams that value new knowledge and get excited about how they’ll be able to use it. In an educational setting, this may mean:
Educator roundtable discussions, new teacher mentoring programs, and plenty of options for personalized professional learning are just some of the ways leaders support a culture of learning.
Organizational leadership in education ensures that everyone is seeking new knowledge and learning from one another by engaging in constructive dialogue. Leaders recognize the strengths and talent of the teachers they work with, but also challenge them to go further and reach their full potential.