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Dr. James D. Laub, National FORUM of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal - Editor, Dr. W.A. Kritsonis

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LEADERSHIP: IT'S NOT JUST A CHALLENGE, IT'S AN ADVENTURE BY DR. JAMES D. LAUB, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL, VOLUME 27(2) 2010, EDITOR, DR. WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS
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   NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNALVOLUME 27, NUMBER 2, 2010-2011 LEADERSHIP: IT’S NOT JUST ACHALLENGE, IT’S AN ADVENTURE James D. LaubUniversity of Texas—Permian Basin ABSTRACT The purpose of this article was to explore effective leadership characteristics andbehaviors that should be exhibited by superintendents, in an attempt toappreciably impact best practices. As the chief executive officers of schooldistricts, superintendents are ultimately responsible and accountable tostudents, faculty, staff, parents and all other stakeholders. Superintendentsare the key element in the stability equation, and the increased tenure of superintendents is essential to sustained educational reform. Introduction istorically, leadership has been equated with exercising power and control over subordinates within an organization. Thescientific management movement in the early 20th centurywas heralded as the panacea for organizational effectiveness. At thattime, leadership theorists and practitioners were firmly entrenched inthe doctrine of efficiency. Subordinates were simply another “tool”, basically a means to an end. Several theories of educational leadershiphave emerged, with each theory producing volumes of literature andlegions of both proponents and opponents. Over the past decade, wellover 60 various classification systems have been developed to define“leadership” (Northouse, 2004). Leadership has been defined in termsof the power relationship that exists between leaders and followers.Bennis and Nanus (1985) postulated that throughout the years, our view of what leadership is and who can exercise it has changedconsiderably. Leadership competencies have remained constant, butour understanding of what it is, how it works, and the ways in which people learn to apply it has shifted. Leadership practice takes form inthe interaction between leaders and followers; leaders act in situations H 43  44    NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL that are defined by subordinates’ actions (Spillane, 2005).  James Laub 45 Educational Leadership Strong and positive leadership owns a significant share of responsibility for effectiveness in schools. Sergiovanni (2005) wrotethat conventional wisdom tells us that leadership is about findingsolutions to problems, even in the best of circumstances, leadership isdifficult. Effectiveness in schools cannot be traced and attributed toany single dimension of organizational effectiveness. Leadershipchallenges and problems that hinder school efficacy occur daily,effective educational leaders learn to expect the unexpected – theymust rise to meet any challenge or problem that interferes with studentlearning and achievement. Challenges and problems come in manyshapes, sizes, and formats – every day begins anew. Superintendentsare much like mechanics, in that they both have a chest full of tools.Mastery comes from knowing which tool solves the challenge or  problem at hand. Thus, educational leaders must be open and consider all claims and theories, they need not necessarily replace existingtheories but challenge existing boundaries (English, 2003).The days of autocratic tendencies for school superintendentsare gone. The pace for change confronting organizations today hasresulted in a call for more adaptive, flexible leadership (Bass, Avolio,Jung, & Berson, 2003). Cooperative, participatory leadership should be the “norm.” Superintendents wear many hats, are responsible for amultitude of functions, and are not immune from this challenges and problems. Educational leadership is a multi-dimensioned position withschool administrators serving within educational, political, andmanagerial dimensions. Bennis (1997) emphasized that adaptiveleaders work with their followers to generate creative solutions tocomplex problems, while also developing them to handle a broader range of leadership responsibilities. School superintendents that do notinclude staff and subordinates in the decision-making and problem-solving processes are foolish and should keep their resumes up-to-date. However, school districts with severe problems can be “turnedaround” by dedicated, stable leadership (Farkas, Johnson, Duffet, &Foleno, 2001).  46    NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL According to Israel and Kasper (2004) with practice, time, skill proficiency, and developing wisdom superintendents in any schoolsetting can be instrumental change agents for the betterment of schools. First and foremost, student success and achievement shouldcapture the superintendent’s notice; they must be institutionalvisionaries. Thinking outside the box and developing a “whatever ittakes” mentality, must be promoted and nurtured. The essence of educational leadership has been the ability to first understand thetheories and concepts and then apply them in real life scenarios(Morrison, Rha, & Hellman, 2003). Leadership has changed rather dramatically as individuals recognize that what leaders do isdetermined, in large part, by the nature of those being led and theculture of the organization in which they work. As quoted by BobDylan, “the times they are a changing.” Effective superintendents muststay abreast of any changes or obstacles that interfere in the learning process and then have the fortitude to remove those obstacles.The status quo of educational administration must bechallenged by always allowing for options, possibilities and probabilities when addressing systemic improvement (English, 2003).Educational theorists espouse numerous examples of what constituteseffective school district attributes. These attributes include: focus onachievement; shared vision and goals; high expectations; stakeholder involvement; and proactive learning environments. In a perfect world,every school district would be effective and every student in thatschool district would be successful. Regrettably, school districts do notdwell in a perfect world, but rather in a world of outdated educationaladministration theories. Kowalski (2005) reported that most stateshave plenty of people that have the credentials to serve assuperintendents, the problem is quality. Creating a caring, self-enhancing learning environment should be a participative jointendeavor between superintendents, subordinates, and stakeholders. As public school districts move away from centralized decision-making,educational administrators must be competent to solicit input, analyzeinformation, and build consensus among all stakeholders (Barnett,2004).

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Sep 12, 2017
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