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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Innovation, authenticity, trust: TIME as a key piece to the school leadership puzzle

I've been thinking a lot about school leadership over the past six months. Well, not just over these months but for a lot of years. Looking back on my 10 years as a school administrator, I think I did my administrative duties well. But I often wondered if I was being a good leader.  (Side note: There is LOTS of literature that discusses the difference between management and leadership but there is less literature that talks about how both are needed for 21st century leadership).

This week, I've been writing an article that looks at school leadership and change in fragile contexts such as Haiti. I think a good argument can be made that "effective leadership" and "change leadership" are synonymous and not that different between the so-called developed and developing worlds.

However, I wonder if change and innovation are more difficult to navigate in the developing world. Certainly there may be less bureaucratic resistance to change (i.e. policies and enforcement mechanisms may not be in place or well-developed). But what about how those who work within the school respond to change? How can a principal encourage and foster innovation if there is reluctance within the teaching staff? Likewise, how do teachers implement innovative methods when a leader may be reluctant to accept these? Of course, there are also parents and cultural norms to deal with too!

I think it comes back to authenticity and trust. I believe that this is no different than for a principal in Canada. Authenticity is demonstrated by consistent behaviour over TIME. Trust is built on consistent behaviour over TIME. School leaders (or teachers) who want to innovate must consider the factor of TIME. Too often we want (or expect) change to happen quickly. Perhaps when it does, the key ingredient of TIME has not been accounted for and, over the long term, the innovation will not succeed.

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