During these holidays, I went to Pavlodar, to my home town. As far as you know, parents, relatives and other people are very interested in Nazarbayev University, especially in the major we are studying in (*because NU provides majors that are not common for Kazakhstani context). Being a student with the major in Educational Leadership, which is something inexplicable for my parents’ and relatives’ understanding, I was asked to tell “what the real Leadership is”. At this time I thought that I really needed Mr.Gogas classes… Today, when we had Mr.Phil’s class and talked about “the elevator pitch”, I remembered this situation when I also had only 3-5 minutes to persuade people that I am studying something really valuable. That is why I will try to use this blog as my “elevator pitch”.
Leadership is one of the most valuable, but at the same time one of the most complicated notions of a modern world. There is no common definition of this term. Every single person interprets it in his or her own way. As professor Gogas says: “Leaders are those who can lead!”. This quote can be improved by adding John C. Maxwell’s words: “A Leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”. Thus, it can be concluded that Leader is a person who is given the power by people to lead them along the road which he or she considers to be the best way to achieve their common goal. It is hard to be the leader owing to the fact that followers are waiting when you (as a leader) show them the direction, provide them with guidance or give them inspiration. This pressing responsibility to make difficult decisions, to know and to do what is right for people, makes the leader to be dedicated to those leader-follower relationships.
Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. This theory first surfaced in the writings of early Greeks and Romans and is prevalent today among those who believe that leadership cannot be developed (Hughes and Bush, 1991). There is no doubt that some leadership qualities are innate, but most of the qualities are formed after years of practice and experience. True leaders are shaped through various trials, tortures and tribulations. For instance: Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and others. No one can argue that life of those individuals was easy. However, there are two main ideas that are considered to be essential in understanding this phenomenon: 1) Leaders are important and 2) There is always leadership crisis of one kind or another (Heifetz et al, 2009).
Leadership crisis is one of the crucial issues in Educational sphere. The word education comes from the Latin word “educare”, which means “to lead out of” (Urbanski & Nickolaou, 2011). Thus, educators should be leaders by definition. However, this is only the theory which has never been practiced owing to the fact that society cannot accept it as a norm. It is confirmed that the goal of education is learning, and the vehicle used to achieve this goal is teaching (Lunenburg & Irby, 2006). The whole world believes that the emphasis of education must be put in teaching and learning. If these two priorities work in a proper way, the effectiveness of learning process is guaranteed and students are able to maximize their outcomes. However, educators are always perceived more as servants than leaders. There are many reasons why they have not assumed leadership roles in schools and education. I will tell about the three most common ones:
- The first one is a confusion of the meanings of leadership and management. In order to exclude misunderstanding, leadership in education must be understood as “supervision”, while management as “administration”.
- Secondly, educators were involved in hierarchal managerial authority system in order to deprive them of the opportunity to question the administration. Hence, any educator became a member of a vulnerable population.
- Thirdly, the school structure now works against the development of educational leadership. Lack of power made educators be ever dependent on those who possess this power.
The crisis in educational leaders is considered to be one of the substantial problems of our time. There is no doubt that there are leaders among educators, however, they are pressed by the bureaucratic system and authorities who are not ready to share with their power. The mentality of citizens, historical background of a country and its economical, political and social conditions predetermine the speed of which leadership will be implemented. Unfortunately, Kazakhstan is not able to get rid of all elements of soviet system momentary, which definitely thwart the progress. The process will take some time. However, there is hope that the generation which is prepared by the Graduate School of Education at Nazarbayev University will be the future systematic reformers in Educational Leadership. They are supposed to contribute to educational development of their country successfully implementing knowledge given by true leaders (their professors), and to extend this line of leadership where leaders have:
- a clear sense of purpose which is explained simply to the followers,
- high expectations of results and vision of future success,
- desire to learn and to be taught, and
- cooperation among the members of the team who identify themselves as change agents.
Educational Leadership major is a compass that shows the right direction. And students of NUGSE are equipped with these compasses. However, it is always a personal choice to follow this direction or to move in the opposite one.
Heifetz, R., Grashow, A., & Linsky, M. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and your world. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
Hughes, M. and Bush, T. (1991). Theory and research as catalysts for change, in W.Walker, R. Farquhar and M. Hughes (eds), Advancing Education: School Leadership in Action. London: Falmer Press.
Lunenburg, F., & Irby, B. (2006). The principalship: Vision to action. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Urbanski, A. & Nickolaou, B. (2011). Reflections on teachers as leaders. Education Week, 12(1), 1-9.