«by SILVIA GONAONE MAKGONE submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of MAGISTER TECHNOLOGIAE in the subject HUMAN RESOURCE ...»
The first section will be devoted to defining strategy, strategic leader and giving a brief description of characteristics of a strategic leader and a strategically focused school.
The purpose is to determine whether there are general theoretical assumptions in literature on strategic leadership and its characteristics, which leads to organisational effectiveness.
The second section contains the discussion of organisational performance versus effective leadership, which at the end will culminate in whether it can be argued that effective leadership in schools can lead to school effectiveness.
The third section will explore whether effective school leadership has any contribution to academic performance.
The fourth section will briefly highlight the roles and responsibilities of a school principal as set out by the Ministry of Education for Namibian schools.
2.2 Strategic leadership Leadership is a popular concept with multiple meanings, and has given rise to an extensive literature. It is therefore important to state from the onset of this study that another perspective of leadership which is strategic leadership is being adopted.
Strategy and strategic leadership are concepts that were mostly used among the business fraternity and have over the years been adopted in the educational setting.
The researcher identified strategy and strategic leadership as key concepts and will attempt to give different definitions as set out in different literature.
Ryan (2008:31) defines strategy as “the journey you will take in order to reach your vision”. Davies and Ellison (2003:3) state that strategy should be seen as a mediumterm activity, perhaps three to five years, and one which deals with broad aggregated data, rather than detailed plans.
Davies (2003:295), in his article “Rethinking Strategy and Strategic Leadership in Schools” argues that it is possible to see strategy as a specific pattern of decisions and actions taken to achieve an organisation’s goals. He went further and identified four
initial elements of strategy as a means of developing an overall understanding:
1. Strategy can be considered to include a broader view dealing with aggregated data or trends rather than disaggregated detail.
2. It deals with the medium- to long-term rather than the short-term operational view.
3. It is important to consider strategy as a perspective and in particular to focus on strategic thinking.
4. It should be seen as a template against which to assess current action.
Strategy thus, can be understood as a path, direction or plans crafted by any organisation (school) to achieve its set goals that can lead it to success. As mentioned above the plans can be medium or long term but success from both should be sustainable.
2.1.2 Strategic leadership
William (2009:127) defined strategic leadership as:
Leadership in a business school setting is a dynamic process whereby one or more individuals initiate/support those changes that are conducive to the achievement of the school’s mission and objective.
Rowe, (2001:81) put it as follows:
Strategic leadership is the ability to influence others to voluntarily make day-today decisions that enhance the long-term viability of the organisation.
Middlewood and Lumby (1998:135) define strategic leadership as “those processes of bringing about change by inspiring others to follow”.
Effective strategic leadership is about leaders being able to think strategically, being emotionally intelligent, having a range of behaviours at their disposal and the wisdom to apply the right combination of behaviours, being able to apply transactional or managerial leadership and transformational or visionary leadership (Amos, 2007:21).
Kabacoff, (2009) put forth the following definition in the Wall Street Journal "Strategic leaders take a broad, long-range approach to problem-solving and decision-making through objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning."
From the above definitions, strategic leadership can be understood as a certain positioning of the leader who pursues the attainment of the objectives of an organisation through different approaches.
2.1.3 Characteristics of strategic leaders According to Davies (2003:303) the difficulty in reviewing the literature on leadership is that it is not always easy to distinguish the characteristics of ‘good leadership’ from those of ‘strategic leadership’.
Davies (2003:304) argues that ‘strategic leadership’ could be considered an element of good or high-performing leadership and he gives a preliminary list of those
characteristics which make up the strategic leader:
• Can see the future, bigger picture for the organization as well as understanding the current contextual setting of the organization. Strategic orientation is the ability to link long-range visions and concepts to daily work.
• Has a dissatisfaction or restlessness with the present. Involves what Senge (1990) describes as ‘creative tension’ which emerges from seeing clearly where one wishes to be, one’s vision, and facing the truth about one’s current reality.
• Has a strategic map of the future state and dimension of the organization-creates the strategic architecture of an organization.
• Has the ability to define the key moment for strategic change in organizations that Burgleman and Grove (1996) call strategic inflection points. The key here is knowing not only what to do strategically but also precisely when to intervene and change direction.
• Has the ability to translate strategy into action through a strategic process involving strategic intent, focus and implementation.
• Believes that strategy is as much about the creation of meaning for all those in the school as it is about the establishment of direction. Critical in this is the art of strategic conversation and dialogue.
• Has powerful professional and organizational learning networks etc.
While an effective strategic leader is coupled to outcomes, Fullan (2005:35) takes it further when he argues that the main mark of an effective leader at the end of his or her tenure is not so much the impact on the bottom line (of profits or student achievement), but rather how many good leaders he or she leaves behind who can go even further.
Through the identified characteristics it becomes evident that strategic leadership is not concerned with the positioning of the leader but rather the actions of the leader (principal) and its deliverables or outcomes within an organisation like a school. These outcomes within the school milieu will be to make the school successful in its core function that will lead to academic achievement.
The next part will give a brief description of how a strategically focused school is.
2.1.4 Strategically focused school Davies (2006:11) is of the opinion that a strategically focused school is one that is educationally effective in the short-term but has a clear framework and processes to translate core moral purpose and vision into excellent educational provision that is challenging and sustainable in the medium- to long-term. He continues by saying that schools that want to become strategically focused need to prioritise on developing powerful strategic processes rather than neat plans that do not always affect practice.
It is thus obvious that a school that is academically successful will be termed to be strategic as educational effectiveness is the core function of any school. The leader in an academically successful school will also be seen as a strategic leader as such a school has reached its core moral purpose and vision.
Leaders in strategically focused schools are obviously working to improve the current situation in their schools. They are developing strategic processes and approaches so as to enhance the capability of the school to move forward to new and improved learning opportunities for all children.
Davies (2003:309) argues that:
“The challenge in developing a strategically focused school is to ensure that not only do we give importance to developing planning documentation that emphasizes the strategic dimension but we give equal importance to developing the strategic conversation and dialogue to build a strategic perspective in the school. It is only by this process that we will be able to develop strategic leadership characteristics within all those who have leadership responsibilities in the school”.
This is a very important point made by Davies, as generally schools are expected to draw their school’s development or improvement plans; the question is whether these plans are implemented and implementable or are the plans just a document to satisfy the ones who will visit the school or those who do school evaluation.
Middlewood and Lumby (1998:137) argue that organisations are not solely concerned with outcomes, processes and resources; they are also concerned with the human spirit and their values and relationships. Authentic leaders breathe the life force into the workplace and keep the people feeling energised and focused.
This view of Middlewood and Lumby fits well with the argument of Davies because organisations (schools) require engagement in strategic conversations to build a strategic perspective as a way of enhancing the strategic thinking characteristic of effective school leaders.
It is through the strategic conversation that all involved in the school becomes aware of the current situation of the school, they start knowing where they want to go and start drawing frameworks on how to reach there. All in the school become involved in the planning processes as all are in constant conversation.
The remaining question is how individuals can be encouraged within the organisation to engage with each other to build strategic understanding and enhance the strategic capability of the organisation.
Davies (2006:11) is of the opinion that the engagement of enhancing strategic capability of an organisation can be seen to consist of four elements: strategic conversation, strategic participation, and strategic motivation leading to strategic capability.
The relationship between conversations and their ability to enhance participation and motivation, as a means of increasing strategic capability, can be seen in Figure.2.1 Figure 2.1 Building strategic capability Source: From Management in education: Processes Not Plans Are the Key to Strategic Development. (p12) by Davies, B., 2006 (20) Sage Publications.
Strategic Conversations Davies (2006:12) is of the opinion that schools are made up of different individuals who think about their role and the nature of the school in different ways. It may also be reasonable to assume that the school is not just a collection of these views but that, through the interaction of these individuals, a unique and powerful perspective can be developed to enhance the school.
He highlights a number of significant points that emerge from developing strategic
• establishing a common vocabulary;
• understanding how staff could make things happen;
• consensus building;
• outlining staff visions;
• building reflection;
• keeping everyone involved;
• carrying everyone forward;
Van der Heijden (as cited by Davies, 2006:12) argues that:
Often much more important is the informal learning activity consisting of unscheduled discussion, debate and conversation about strategic questions that goes on constantly at all levels in the organization.
Schools are thus seen as networks of individuals linked together through a series of interconnections based on conversation. Leaders need to take the informal opportunities to interact with others not only to discuss the problems of the present, but also to engage in a dialogue about the challenges of the future.
Strategic Participation Davies (2006) argues that there are two purposes for strategic conversations. The first is to draw in a wider group of individuals with their knowledge and expertise in order to increase the pool of ideas and sights that form the strategic discussion and debate. The second is to involve individuals in the strategic process so as to build involvement and commitment to a desirable future direction for the school.
Gratton (as cited by Davies 2006:13) articulates three powerful reasons for building
strategic participation. These are using participation:
i. to build guiding coalitions; it means: “the continued involvement of broad groups of people is crucial – to build management learning through involvement in the visioning process; to map the causal relationships; and to become involved and committed to making the journey.” ii. to build the capacity to change; he sees this as “being about creating genuine adaptation, developing an organisation which is permanently adaptable and flexible and is involved at both the individual team and organizational levels, with a collective wish to move forward.” iii. to keep focusing on the strategic themes; this he interprets as: “The broad themes of the [strategic] journey act as a focus for action. This overview plays a crucial role in bridging from the present to the future. Perhaps most importantly it is a vehicle for communication, both across the teams and to the wide group that will be involved … this overview ensures consistency of action across the organisation…” Schools are dynamic interactive systems and individuals need to be both aware of the directions of the school and be open-minded to change and to development. Leaders need to know that all involved need to own the process, get a feel for it and take it on.
Leaders have to consult because as a leader you have to bring people with you, as it is easier to lead than to push.
Strategic Motivation The purpose of strategic conversations is the greater involvement of individuals within the school to participate in the strategic development. This process will enhance the motivation of individuals to become involved in its strategic debate and implementation.
Davies (2006:15) argues that the motivation of staff depends on factors such as: