In this post I give a very general introduction to 'principal centere' theories off leadership. I also cross reference it with some historical evidence drawn from personal experience during the Ontario, Canada education 'reform' of the late 1990s and is often forgotten today as Ontario is heralded for its great education system. This is part one of a two part blog. In the second I shall explore another Principal centered model, loosely coalescing around the term 'transformative'. Please enjoy and feedback always welcome.
There are no actual educational schools of thought that define themselves as principal-centred and leadership team-centred, these are terms we shall use to embrace a wide spectrum of theories that share commonalities. Principal-centred theories are those that perceive the principal as the central agent leading a school towards increased effectiveness.
There is a wide spectrum of principle-centred theory however, the defining thread is, as noted, the principal is envisioned and empowered as the central figure in educational leadership. Among the first models of educational leadership within this spectrum to emerge was that of transformational leadership. Grounded in the business model of leadership this model casts the principal in the role of exploring the possibilities of new developments (Cheng 2002. Hoyle and Wallace 2005), transacting with other players, and applying various behavioural and strategic plans in an effort to bring a personal vision of school effectiveness to fruition (Cheng, 2002, p. 54 – 57). In essence, this model acts upon the premise that the principal exerts influence to bring about effective change. Within Cheng’s premise, the principal operates at different layers, each of which contains a contingency plan to deal with emerging and unforeseen issues: there is a central overriding plan. For example, during the imposition of educational reforms, many principals of Ontario state schools in the 1990’s were left floundering. The introduction of a complete new K-12 curriculum, including benchmarks and standards, the introduction of provincial-wide exams, increased contact-time for teachers and students, increased work-load and a decrease in funding, were but a few of the many areas principal were charged with implementing. Had Cheng’s model of transformational leadership been employed, principals could have developed and implemented contingency plans using the various agencies available. First and foremost principals could have developed a participative management system where the various components of the reforms were divided among groups who would implement the reforms under the guidance of the principal (Cheng, 2002 p. 54). Next, principals could “exercise their leadership through their effective, behavioural and cognitive performance” (Cheng, 2002, p.54) whereby they used their personal charisma, legal power and interpersonal relationships to encourage and persuade others to effectively implement the reforms. Finally, the principals would introduce and explain these changes to stakeholders, outline a plan of action, and look for suggestions to improve the implementation (Cheng, 2002, p. 55). In essence the principal would develop a strategic plan to deal with the challenge and through exercising their various layers influence enact an effective plan (Cheng, 2002, p.56).
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan