November 10, 2016 6 min to read

Community Leadership

Category : Leadership

Author: Dr. Dolly Jaitly

Email Id: dollyjaitly57@yahoo.com

‘To lead people, walk beside them. As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence and when the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’

– Lao Tsu, Chinese philosopher

Life is nothing but the sum total of learning experiences from cradle to grave. One who does not grow with times is often left behind in this monumental journey of dynamic existence. I have been a teacher for the longest time but choose to be a learner by choice and treat educational panorama as my play field to gain lessons.

Education and school have traditionally been the hub of our communities not only for the wisdom and knowledge that they create for our present and future, but for the connections that they create amongst a community.  There were times when teachers were revered and respected for the work that they did with students, their efforts to connect with parents and involve them in the learning process of their child, nurturing intelligence and developing students as holistically developed individuals.  However, I feel that, “it takes an entire community”, to nurture and develop students who would be leaders of tomorrow.
As an educational leader, it is most important to bring a community together to share leadership in many different avenues.  In a quote from Tom Peters, he states that “leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”  In a school community, this starts at the top in working with others to develop their leadership in every position and level for the members involved.

Strength Based Focus
Every teacher has her positives. By focusing on the strength of teachers, you show that you value their expertise first, before you look to help them develop in other areas.  This strength-based focus helps to build a relationship between the principal and each individual teacher, pushing them to be better every day.  When the leader of an organization has this belief and proves it through actions, it trickles down to the teachers and then to the students in the classroom.  The more experience I gain in leadership, the more I see that effective teachers are effective leaders, and have this same strength-based approach with their students. If we have a community that focuses on building leadership in all areas, we are more likely to be successful within our vision.

Flexibility and Adaptation
Through this value on developing leadership, our schools are more open not only to navigate but to lead change as well.  As society continues to change, schools need to adapt to best serve our students for their future as well as their present.  Those that are willing to adapt and learn from change now, will be the ones that are most likely to be successful in the future.  Today, we see new and different jobs being created in our world. Many old and accepted jobs that dominated the vision of parents and students are losing sheen and are becoming irrelevant. Therefore, amidst this era of changing scenarios, we should focus on developing the next generation of entrepreneurs in schools itself.  This is often created by instilling a sense of “intrapreneurial spirit” within educators that are always looking to develop and further the education as the vehicle of change.  While we look and build on what has worked in the past, we must also continuously look forward and review the gap between the curriculum and the requirements of the community.

Transparency and Communication
One of those changes in our world is a shift to an open and transparent environment.  As an administrator, I have the opportunity to become better by continuously being able to visit classrooms and see what the most effective teachers do.  Peers do not have this same opportunity because of our physical environment and over busy schedule at work place.  Through the use of different technologies such as smart class internet etc, we open up our classrooms to other educators not only in our own schools, but to schools around the world to collaborate with them and get valuable feedback.  As I always focus on “what is best for kids”, it is crucial that we look not only to help our own students, but how we can help other students from around the globe as well.  We must ensure that we create a culture of sharing within our own community to learn from others around the world, as well as within our own community.  The most innovative environments outside of school tap into the “wisdom of the room” and bring in different voices to continuously learn and grow; schools must do the same.

Parents- Equal Stakeholders
To be successful, people must have a purpose within our education organization.  This included parents who are a great untapped resource within our own communities.  We can no longer have children going home and being asked the question, “what did you learn today?”, and responding with, “nothing.”  By opening the doors to our classrooms through both physical and virtual environments, we have the opportunity to change the conversation at home.  Parents are able to be actively involved in the process of learning, leading to a higher opportunity for success of each child.  The more we involve parents in this process at home, the more likely it is for students to be successful in school, and beyond.  This community support is imperative.

Mutual Respect
Effective school leadership is transcended through qualities that enable an individual to step to the forefront of a situation and take command by overseeing, delegating, and providing guidance. As a school leader, one should desire to be the kind of person that people trust and respect, but that does not come through a title of being a principal alone. It is something that one earns with time and hard work. If you expect to gain the respect of teachers, students, staff, etc., you have to learn to give respect first.

Servitude
It is important for a leader to have an attitude of servitude. This does not mean that you allow people to step all over you or do their job, but you make yourself readily available to help people out should the need arise. By doing this, you set up a pathway for success because the people you oversee are more likely to accept changes, solutions, and advice when they emulate senior leaders.

Decision Making can be tough 

As a school leader, it is also crucial for you to be prepared to make tough decisions that go against the grain. There are going to be times when it is necessary to make these types of decisions. You have a responsibility to make choices based upon what is best for your students. It is important to realize that you will step on people’s toes and that some may be angry with you. Understand that if it is best for the students, then you have a rational reason for making those decisions. When making a tough decision, have confidence that you have earned enough respect that the majority of your decisions are not questioned. However, as a leader, you should be prepared to explain a decision if it has the best interest of your students in mind.

In summary, building relationships, developing leadership, and focusing on school as the “hub” of our community, would help in creating an environment where our students are building a bright future both today and tomorrow.  By looking at what worked in the past while also looking in developing our future, our community is more likely to be able to come together to create the schools our kids need.
Therefore, I strongly recommend a holistic approach to empower and enrich our next generation to meet the challenges of life with enhanced life skill education so that they may grow into global citizens.

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