Effective leadership is an essential component in facilitating change that will improve student achievement and educational experiences. Research has concluded among the school-related factors that are associated with students’ achievement, leadership is second only to classroom instruction.
Contemporary change leadership involves more awareness and understanding of human behavior and relationships, as well as sound emotional intelligence. In addition, it requires a balance between soft and hard leadership skills.
Change leaders inspire motivation through the creation and articulation of a shared vision which encompasses the organization’s potential future. Change leaders must be forward-looking—envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future. The creation of a shared vision provides meaning, inspires individuals to work harder, and creates a community in which all parties view change as an opportunity for growth and development. Whether the vision begins with a leader’s personal conception or following a group consensus, it is important that there be a sense of ownership of the vision.
Leadership that will motivate change requires intensive and sustained collaboration. This motivation is fostered through collaborative and shared decision making. Shared decision making provides a strong sense of purpose and meaning, and increases motivation among team members. When teachers and staff members have autonomy and a voice within a school, it provides them with the energy that drives them toward their goal.
To create and sustain change, school leaders must understand what views are held by individual members of the team and work to refine them into common categories of value connected to a shared vision. They must support interindividual differences among staff and act as mentors, coaching and advising with individual personal attention. In order for school leaders to be successful during the change process, they must be compassionate, appreciative, responsive to the others’ needs and focus on achievements and success.
The most effective change leaders are people who, irrespective of audience, possess the ability to create big shifts in their audiences’ thinking and behavior, and foster intellectual stimulation. Change leaders nurture and develop people who think independently and foster the desire to innovate. They engage in the rationality of team members, getting them to challenge their assumptions and to think about old problems in new ways
Finally, change leaders willingly solicit new ideas and foster leadership in others. They are secure in their beliefs and are willing to discuss competing ideas and philosophies. Cultivating leadership in others is a pillar of change. Effective leaders promote leadership in others by using individual goal-setting, transferring decision making responsibility, and by making the individual feel part of a whole. Change leaders empower followers to become leaders through responsibility and trust, instead of the traditional reward-driven process.