By Josep Maria Lozano and Ángel Castiñeira

Leadership is not a medal, nor a position, nor a hierarchy. It is a dynamic process that sets in motion people who assume responsibilities, members of a group who are challenged and mobilised, and causes that are worth striving for. 

When it comes to schools, leadership must include direction (where to go), planning (how to get there) and emotion (a desire to do so).

What leadership models are valid in the educational field? We would like to highlight the following four:

1. Transformational leadership

This type of leadership is oriented beyond self-interest. It raises the entire team’s awareness level and purpose in relation to a shared project.

Transformational leadership allows dreams to take shape

Within this model, the fundamental tasks of educational leadership include the following: 

  • Having an educational vision.
  • Mobilising staff to develop the educational mission and objectives.
  • Involving parents and students.
  • Rendering accountability.
  • Connecting social, economic and environmental trends to the school’s needs and practices.

It goes without saying that educational leadership is essential in educational settings. It is the soul of a school, giving ultimate meaning to the teachers’ commitment and vocation. 

Transformational leadership allows dreams to take shape and leads to the concrete, unique projects that the community yearns for.

Future education
Photo: Cole Keister/Unsplash

2. Servant leadership

This leadership style brings into play a new moral principle: the only authority that deserves our support is that which is freely and consciously given to the leader by her collaborators, in response and in direct proportion to the obvious and clear role of the leader as a servant. 

Servant leadership is based on the desire to serve others

This type of leadership is based on the desire to serve others beyond personal interest. Servant leadership re-examines the concepts of power and authority from a critical point of view, making this mutual relationship less oppressive. 

The best test of servant leadership lies in evaluating the effect of this task on the less privileged members of the organisation and the community, from educators to students: Will they benefit? Will they be freer, more independent? Will they grow as professionals and people? 

Serving and guiding eventually become, therefore, two functions of a better leadership style oriented towards the common good.

3. Responsible leadership

Responsible leadership takes care of common values and the community in which it operates. It offers inspiration and perspective on a desired future. It supports all members. It creates meaning.

Ignacio Ellacuría distinguished between “taking charge of reality," “carrying reality” and “taking care of reality." These three expressions are related to responsible leadership. 

Taking charge of reality means understanding situations implicitly. Carrying reality implies assuming it, serving it in particular situations, and not using it. And taking care of reality means being actively involved in building reality. 

All three of these concepts form part of the practical and ethical intelligence found in responsible leadership.

Leadership is not a matter of elites, but of scales

4. Distributed leadership

Leadership is not something we do to other people, but something we do with other people. In the case of educational leadership, it is essential to know how to move from “me to we," from “me to us." 

In educational centres, we need a joint project, not a set of projects. We can only achieve a shared vision if we all work collaboratively in the service of a common goal, through different leadership communities (or units). Leadership is not a matter of elites, but of scales. 

Educational leadership allows a transition from a centralised leadership model (based on order and control) to a distributed leadership model (based on coordination and cultivation). 

This transformation involves evolving from an authoritarian model to a facilitator model, from giving orders to knowing how to build commitment, from imposing to creating common goals.

This means combining – and sometimes replacing – opacity with transparency, control with trust, orders and commands with commitment and participation, top-down leadership with leadership at all levels, a focus on tasks with a focus on people, and internal competition with interdepartmental collaboration. 

Distributed leadership promotes the emergence of people willing to take responsibility for initiatives, projects and commissions.

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