Effective School Leaders Practice Invitational Leadership

To become an effective school leader, you must help all your staff members succeed. Let’s discuss a school management model that will help you accomplish that. Invitational leadership is a school management model that aims to “invite” all interested stakeholders to succeed. The leadership model utilizes “invitations” as messages communicated to people, which inform them that they are valued, able, responsible, and worthwhile.

The messages are sometimes transmitted by interpersonal action but are mostly disseminated through the institution’s policies, programs, practices, and physical environments. Invitational leadership is based upon four basic assumptions, which exemplify the characteristics of invitational leaders. These assumptions are optimism, respect, trust, and intentionality. Lets briefly discuss these assumptions:

  • Optimism – The belief that people have untapped potential for growth and development.
  • Respect – The recognition that every person is an individual of worth.
  • Trust – The possession of confidence in the abilities, integrity, and responsibilities of ourselves and others.
  • Intention – A decision to purposely act in a certain way to achieve and carry out a set goal.

Invitational leadership is a tough skill to master, so let’s look a scenario that illustrates how it operates in an actual school environment.

Scenario: Angela Murray, an art teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary, came to Principal Frank Anderson one day with a problem. While using a shared computer in the staff room, she had discovered an email exchange between two other teachers that made snarky comments about her off-putting mannerisms and even the way she dressed. Ms. Murray was hurt. However, even though she’d discovered the emails by accident, she didn’t feel comfortable confronting the teachers because of privacy issues.

Principal Anderson sympathized with Ms. Murray’s problem, but he also realized that she was not wholly blameless. The art teacher’s social skills were somewhat lacking, and her creative outfits were causing merriment among students and teachers alike. She was a relatively new teacher, and a few small changes, he thought, might make her job easier.

Principal Anderson had a dilemma. Should he just deal with Ms. Murray, and ignore the email exchange, which was certainly private? Or should he bring in the other teachers and lecture them on respect? Which direction would create the best future for the school?

In the scenario, Principal Anderson is faced with a situation in which trust has been breached, and there is a lack of open communication among the parties. The invitational model would suggest that he find a way to bring Ms. Murray and the gossiping teachers together in a non-threatening environment, to enable all sides of the conversation to be heard. As the vignette illustrates, invitational leadership has a highly personal and ethical character, which is included within its modular constructs.

Let’s look at the four assumptions (optimism, respect, trust, and intentionality) as they relate to the vignette. If Principal Anderson was cynical, he might dismiss Ms. Murray as a hopeless case, and laugh along with the other teachers. However, the invitational model shifts the focus from negative to positive.

Using the four assumptions (optimism, respect, trust, and intentionality), Principal Anderson would understand that Ms. Murray was still a work in progress, and he would believe in her potential. He would realize that her creativity and quirkiness were, if tapped appropriately, assets rather than liabilities, and would attempt to transmit that notion to the other teachers. He would work with Ms. Murray, helping her hone goals that would make her a better teacher.

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