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Leadership Flavor of the Week

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Every time we turn around, a new definition of educational leadership emerges with standards, benchmarks and, of course, expert research to back it up. It’s getting to be like adding new flavors to Baskin & Robbins 31 ice cream choices and you decide the flavor of the week. You can be an Instructional Leader, an Operational Leader, and/or a Policy Leader. Your leadership behavior can be distributed, shared, transformational, charismatic, situational or balanced. You can be a visionary leader, a democratic leader, a coaching leader or just a plain old mean leader!

I don’t mean to make light of all of the important work that’s been done to identify the knowledge, skills, strategies and tools to be an effective educational leader. These are important skills necessary for all educational leaders. However, to me there is only one leadership attribute that has the greatest impact on what occurs in schools and school districts and the only one that makes the difference between a great leader and a lousy one. Simply put, it’s how the leader treats people and builds and sustains positive relationships between her/himself and others and among staff, students, parents and community members. This is what makes the most significant difference in the climate and culture of a school or district and, ultimately, impacts whether students will achieve or fail.

Clearly, one can be educated about curriculum, instruction, and assessment. One can learn how to use data to make decisions, how to allocate resources, and how to effectively supervise and evaluate staff. The question, however, is this: Is relationship building a skill that can be taught or learned or is it innate? What do you think?

Marion Ginopolis

MI-LIFE Michigan Leadership Improvement Framework Endorsement

5 Comments

Couldn't agree more about the key element of relationship in leadership. Of the new three "Rs" it is clear that rigor/relevance would not be sufficient without the core foundation of relationships.

Couldn't agree more about the key element of relationship in leadership. Of the new three "Rs" it is clear that rigor/relevance would not be sufficient without the core foundation of relationships.

If you have to teach relationship building, you'd better get a new principal. Education today needs not only a person with a high IQ, but a high EQ as well!

Can you remember a really effective leader that was not able to build relationships with the people he/she was working with? I can't - and the leaders that are most effective have a unique ability to build relationships with everyone around them - even those that are not in their immediate circle of influence. It is all about relationships – and if you look through the literature the underlying corner stone – in authentic leadership, servant leadership, distributed leadership, shared leadership, and any other “form” of leadership – the ability to create, build, maintain and reform relationships is key. Without relationships you are alone and with nobody to follow or lead you can be a leader or a follower.

I cannot argue that at the root of all good leadership is the ability to develop and maintain relationships. However, I am not sure that if you have the skill, all others can be taught and/or learned. I do know of people that are great with interpersonal relationships but do not have what it takes to be a leader. The other skills are needed. I think back to leaders I have had that were egocentric and authoritarian. Did they lead? Did they make change? In many instances they did. Were they liked? Respected? Were the changes they made sustained? That is a different conversation. We wear many hats as leaders. There is a time and place for each of the styles mentioned. Relationships are key but not at the cost of all other 'hats' that need to be worn.

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