The American Heritage Dictionary (2000) defines leadership in the following manor: “1. The position or office of a leader; 2. Capacity or ability to lead; 3. A group of leaders; [and,] 4. Guidance, direction.” At best, the descriptors are convoluted and do not provide any meaningful insight into the nature of leadership. Definitions for lead, although a bit more descriptive, still do not facilitate an understanding of leadership as a theory. Many have offered constructs and models to define leadership. Primarily these ideas have been developed and assessed in the business community. Two such theories, The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Posner, 2003c) and Principle-centered Leadership (Covey, 1990) offer compelling designs for leadership application. Professional educators can also benefit from knowledge of leadership theory and applications to the profession as well as the classroom.
Both The Leadership Challenge and Principle-centered Leadership models are based on transformational leadership theory. In transformational leadership theory, it is the role of the leader to develop a vision and align constituents around the vision by using persuasive communication, inspiration, and empowerment (Lavezzoli, 2001). A second tenet of transformational leadership suggests, that the leader might develop a collective vision of a group and create an environment that provides connections between aspirations and work and provides constituents with the necessary resources, encouragement, and support needed to achieve the common goals. The concept of transformation leadership is “raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality (James, 1996).” The Kouzes and Posner Leadership Challenge model subscribe to the visional leadership concept, while Covey’s Principle-centered Leadership model also incorporates the concept of leadership as an ethical and historically-based discipline.
Kouzes and Posner (2003c) paint an image of a leader almost as a symbol. The leader is described in great imagery, having the ability to make individuals better by strengthening their self-worth. Leaders are described as timeless; in the ever-changing world, leaders can imagine the future and direct others toward goals. They do so by providing positive motivation and inspiration, providing support, and standing firm against adversary. Kouzes and Posner postulate that there are five necessary practices for leadership termed “The Five Practices of Exemplary Learning.” By using these methods, a leader will have significant impact.
The first practice is entitled, Model the Way. The concept revolves around the way people should be treated and goals pursued. The leader is responsible for generating standards of excellence. The model suggests that complex change can overwhelm and sometimes suppress people. When this happens, it is the responsibility of the leader to set short term goals for constituents to achieve on the way to the larger objective. A leader must set an example by building and affirming shared values and align actions with those values. The second practice, Inspire a Shared Vision, focuses on an outward positive attitude. It is the leader’s responsibility to believe in the potential to make a difference. The leader is also responsible for showing constituents the ideal of what the organization has the potential to become. The leader disseminates these ideals to others and makes them stakeholders and believers in the philosophy. This inspiration gives others an understanding and appreciation for the future. The leader talks to constituents about values and it is critical that words and actions are consistent. “Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue (Kouzes and Posner, 2003c).” Kouzes and Posner’s (2003c) research demonstrates that individuals need to accept an organization’s vision, but have a vision of their own to be most productive. In fact, those who accepted an organization’s vision but did not have...
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