34 Points on Strategic Leadership in Schools

Modern educational leadership is complex and demanding. Challenges include reestablishing novel national visions, crafting new educational aims for schools, restructuring education systems at different levels, privatization, and diversifying school education, all at the macro-level, and being proactive in facing up to these contextual challenges using various strategies. Strategic leadership is strongly linked to the organization’s vision. Here are 34 points about strategic leadership in the school environment to prompt school administrators to action.

Vision is an essential part of strategic leadership. Without it, school staff and personnel aren’t working towards the same goal and therefore will find themselves at odds, slowing progress and impeding success. The following four points are essential for incorporating leadership vision in the school environment.

  1. Outstanding leaders must have a vision for their organizations.
  2. A school’s vision should be communicated in a way that secures commitment from other members of the organization.
  3. Communication of the vision requires communication of its meaning.
  4. Focus should be given to the institutionalizing of the vision if leadership is to be successful.

The development of strategic direction involves a process in which we don’t just look forward from the present, but we also establish a picture of what we want the school to look like in the future and set guidelines and frameworks on how to move forward to that position. As we have seen above, from the conversations with strategic leaders, there must a clear understanding of the direction the school is headed in. What strategic leaders need to do can be summarized by the strategic leadership points 5-8.

  1. Strategic leaders set the direction of the school.
  2. Strategic leaders challenge and question – they are dissatisfied with the present.
  3. Strategic leaders translate strategy into action.
  4. Strategic leaders prioritize their own strategic thinking and learning by building new mental models to frame their understanding and that of others.

One key characteristic of strategic leaders is their ability to envision the different ways their organization might perform in future. They always have a desire to challenge the status quo and improve for the future. This means that strategic leaders have to deal constantly with their dissatisfaction with present arrangements, while facing the challenge that they are not able to change things as quickly as they might want. Leaders, as change agents in their organizations, constantly ask questions such as:

  1. What are the things taught that have been clearly successful or unsuccessful in the past?
  2. What accounted for the success or failure?
  3. What do we need to do differently in the future?
  4. Which relationships between the school and students, parents, or the wider community have been successful or unsuccessful, and why?
  5. What can be done to change things for the better?
  6. How can we assess what we do to challenge the current understanding and operations?
  7. As a school, are we cruising and strolling or are we challenging and creating?

Wisdom in the context of strategic leadership is defined as the ability to take the right action at the right time. Strategic leaders need this kind of wisdom to successful foster school growth. Here are ten abilities that are central to using wisdom in strategic leadership.

  1. Creative ability to come up with ideas
  2. Analytical ability to decide whether the ideas are good.
  3. Practical ability to make their ideas functional and convince their followers that their ideas are valuable.
  4. To balance the impact of the ideas on themselves, others, and their institutions in the short and long run.
  5. Successful intelligence to adapt to varying situations and challenges.
  6. To balance the interests of various stakeholders in the school setting.
  7. To balance timeframes in a way that allows for optimal work to get done.
  8. To infuse values in a mindful way throughout the school environment.
  9. To align responses to the environment appropriately.
  10. To apply knowledge for the common good.

Strategic leadership is a powerful tool for school reform. These final nine points regarding strategic leadership deal with school reform, and specifically how administrators can create meaningful change within their school environment.

  1. Strategic leaders have a vision of the reformed system and how to achieve it.
  2. Strategic leaders create a broad understanding and support for the reform vision at the highest levels.
  3. Strategic leaders bring commitment of school and district leadership to the reform vision and its implementation.
  4. Strategic leaders rely on the use of interventions to translate the reform vision into practice.
  5. Strategic leaders recognize that, for reform to be achieved, one has to start small, refine activities as needed, and provide evidence that interventions lead to desired outcomes.
  6. Strategic leaders develop system capability and capacity to scale up reform with quality.
  7. Strategic leaders enhance and facilitate development of formal policies that provide guidance and incentives for reform.
  8. Strategic leaders avoid controversy.
  9. Strategic leaders develop capabilities for the next generation of reform leaders.

Strategic leadership consists not only of the vision element in leadership ability, but also encompasses other wide-ranging factors. The question thus remains how we can develop a coherent model that informs us about what strategic leadership truly entails. These 34 points offer administrators a powerful place to start exploring strategic leadership, or to deepen their practice of it in an effort to continue to improve their school’s ability to success.

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