Part VII (of VII)
Final Thoughts on Shared Leadership
The final of the five practices that principals can use to grow leadership in their buildings is authentic collaboration.
V. Provide Authentic Opportunities for Collaboration
Nothing builds the shared leadership capacity of teachers quicker than authentic opportunities for collaboration. The collaboration must be focused on real issues within the schoolhouse walls. Whether through study groups, action research, or pedagogical trial and error, collaboration brings the creative process to life.
Teachers are eager to be viewed as part of the solution to student performance concerns. Principals need to show faith in their teachers and give them the chance to solve instructional questions related to student achievement. A belief in the collective intelligence of teachers nurtures a sense of shared responsibility for school achievement.
While principals must respond to federal, state, and local educational initiatives, they should collaboratively utilize teachers to introduce and interpret these changes. The days of district-centered staff development are gone. When teachers are relied on to lead staff development in their schools, their role as professionals is reaffirmed.
Shared leadership fosters a proactive value system that keeps teachers from feeling that educational reform is something that happens to them. Rather than being reactive to new changes, they begin to anticipate and prepare for the change. This makes them much more capable than teachers who operate as free agents with no connection to their peers.
Leadership Can Be Shared
Principals tend to report that they are strong proponents of shared leadership. The question is, are they strong practitioners? When beliefs and practices converge, the possibilities for schools are endless. The only risk with shared leadership is that teachers will become empowered and pass those feelings on to their students.
Imagine a school full of adults and students who recognize, value, and utilize their strengths every day. Principals who share leadership are not ceding power, if they ever had it. Adopting shared leadership practices instantly makes a principal smarter. With all of the challenges facing school leaders today, being a little smarter could make a big difference.