Monday, August 1, 2011

A vision of shared leadership...

I am in the process of reading my second book as part of the #edfocus book club, which meets on Wednesdays at 8:30 CDT. The first book we read was "Focus" by Mike Schmoker, and we are currently reading "Leaders of Learning" by Richard DuFour and Robert Marzano. As you probably know, DuFour and Marzano are key players in the Professional Learning Communities model, and as such this book ties a lot of its points to the implementation of PLCs at both the district, building and classroom levels.

I don't want to try to say it better than DuFour and Marzano so I am going to take a few statements from the book on "shared leadership," and what building principals should look for when selecting team leaders:

1) - Their influence with their colleagues - The acceptance or rejection of an idea often depends less on the merits of the idea itself than on the person who is supporting it. In most organizations there are some members who are so highly regarded and respected that their support helps convince others a proposal has merit. The people best suited to leading a team are these "opinion leaders."

2) - Their willingness to be a champion of the PLC process - Organizations are most effective when leaders throughout the organization speak with one voice regarding priorities and align their own behaviors with those priorities. The most effective team leaders demonstrate their belief in the PLC process by modeling their own commitment to a focus on learning, collaboration, collective inquiry, and results orientation.

3) - Their sense of self-efficacy and willingness to persist - A recent national survey of teachers revealed they believed the two most important factors for improving student achievement were more funding and better support from parents. This tendency to look for solutions outside one's own sphere of influence is a major barrier to improving schools. Effective team leaders do not look out the window waiting for someone else to improve their situation - they look in the mirror. They demonstrate their belief that the collective actions of the members of the team can have a significant, positive impact on results. This belief enables them to rally rather than retreat when faced with setbacks because they assume that negative events are temporary glitches rather than the permanent state of affairs that pessimists see, and that setbacks are due to specific causes that can be identified and fixed. They stay the course.

4) - Their ability to think systematically - The most effective team leaders see the interconnections between the work of their teams and the improvement of their schools and districts. Whereas ineffective leaders will view the work of teams as a series of disjointed tasks to be accomplished for a checklist, effective team leaders are able to connect the dots. They bring coherence to the collaborative team process.

If you are looking for a great read on district and building leadership, then I would suggest reading "Leaders of Learning." Additionally, if your school is considering, beginning, or underway when it comes to implementing PLCs, then this book is a must read for all the members on your leadership teams.

As a district or building leader, what strategies do you use when developing a system of shared leadership, as well as what characteristics do you look for when selecting team and committee leaders?