When I first commenced this unit around three months ago I gave my own definition of leadership as basically being whenever one person influences a group of others (Coussins, 2016, March 11). I described it in fairly simple, plain speaking terms. To me it was a simple concept. I still believe that it can be in many situations. You can get by to an extent only using the principles of instructional leadership, for example. This is perhaps the model that best reflected how I saw leadership back in March. The oldest model linking leading and learning, it is largely based around a leader teaching by instruction (Bush & Glover, 2014). I suppose it was the essence of this model that I was referring to in the very unilateral view I had. This, coupled with a very simplistic view of some of the great leaders in history. When I thought about these people, I thought about them as one leader, alone on a pedestal that many followed.
Over the course of this unit I have come to realise that leadership is not always that simple. It is very much a multi-layered and multi-faceted phenomenon. Look at the distributive model of leadership, for example. Far from relying upon one leader, distributive leadership has its focus in sharing leadership amongst others, employing their expertise as necessary (Harris, 2008). It’s practically at the other end of the leadership spectrum and a form of leadership I failed to consider. Enabling the leadership of others was also something I neglected to consider when I failed to establish a recycling program at my former school. An event outlined in my blog, I attempted to lead and manage all aspects of this task my myself (Coussins, 2016, March 22). How foolish I was!
It has really struck me how the importance of collaboration has continued to pop up time and again throughout my ETL504 readings. From the first module to the last, I don’t think there’s failed to be focus on collaboration somewhere. I highlighted this in my assignment one blog post (Coussins, 2016, April 10), having being particularly stuck by the Don Tapscott presentation (TED, 2012). The way Don Tapscott finished that presentation, showing the collaboratory size and power of the flock of starling birds in scaring away a bigger predatory bird really was spine tingling stuff. It showed visually what simple words often cannot. I have always known the value of collaboration as a teacher, but I hadn’t considered just how important.
Further to this, I also now believe that there is not a role in the school that offers a better chance to lead and facilitate collaboration than the teacher-librarian. Librarians have a wide, multi-year level knowledge of the curriculum (Church, 2013). The very nature of their role ensures they work among every year level. Let’s also remember the very nature of the place the teacher-librarian oversees – the library. A place centred around activity, participation and a voice for everyone (Seasholes, 2013). Being exposed to these realities throughout the modules has certainly helped to put a spring in my step towards a hopeful teacher-librarian career.
Attempting to write a strategic plan for assignment two has also challenged the way I view leadership. It is certainly not easy to put together a formal school document that draws upon leadership theory, implementation and practice in a written plan format. Further complicating matters is an ever changing and unpredictable external environment, making future planning difficult (Strategic Planning: A ten step guide, 2001). It’s one thing to be able to able to evaluate a certain situation that you are currently in from a leadership and planning perspective. It’s another to attempt to write a lasting report that needs to be flexible and capable of maintaining its relevance in ever changing future situations. It has opened my eyes to another aspect of leadership reality. I have enjoyed this challenge.
To be an effective leader you really do need to realise that there are many different approaches to leadership, and different styles will be needed at different times. Being able to recognise which approach is needed in which situation is a strength of great leaders. So is the ability to adequately identify leadership approaches for future situations that are yet to fully unfold. This best summarises the most poignant discoveries I will take from my time studying ETL504.
Bush, T., & Glover, D. (2014). School leadership models: What do we know? School Leadership and Management, 34(5), 553-571. doi:10.1080/13632434.2014.928680
Church, A. (2013). Tapping into the skills of school librarians. Principal Leadership 14(3), 44-46. Retrieved from https://www.nassp.org/news-and-resources/publications/principal-leadership
Coussins, J. (2016, March 11). What is leadership? – My understanding. [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&forum_id=_42379_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_18171_1&course_id=_11861_1&message_id=_538150_1#msg__538150_1Id
Coussins, J. (2016, March 22). Bringing innovation and teamwork together. [Online blog post]. Retrieved from: https://librarylandscape.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/bringing-innovation-and-teamwork-together/
Coussins, J. (2016, April 10). ETL504 Assignment 1: Reflective Critical Analysis. [Online blog post]. Retrieved from https://librarylandscape.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/etl504-assignment-1-reflective-critical-analysis/
Harris, A. (2008). Distributed leadership: According to the evidence. Journal of Educational Administration, 46(2), 172-188. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.1108/09578230810863253
Seasholes, C. (2013, January 9). Teacher librarians at the heart of student learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_ybY5O7WvA
Strategic Planning: A ten step guide. (2001). Worldbank. Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTAFRREGTOPTEIA/Resources/mosaica_10_steps.pdf
TED. (2012, June 28). Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfqwHT3u1-8