School’s morale and the shift to caring leadership

The challenge of cultivating caring leadership is demanding.  Since caring leadership requires more than managing communities of teaching and learning, it embodies a balance of academic press and support.

Enhancing strong academic press and social support will benefit the students in their engagement to be academically and socially success. Thus, there is a quintessential central quality of academic and social support which is crucial – caring.

What is caring leadership about?

The definition of caring is vast.  It varies according to different context and perception.

Specifically, caring can be defined as a process of facilitating growth in his or her “own right”.   As such, it is something intended and expressed, perceived and receive by the cared for. So, why should one care?

Caring serves a wide spectrum of purposes.  For example, one of them is to promote the general development, welfare, and well-being of others.

In a way, showing compassion addresses the immediate needs of others.  However,  what makes it greater is the capacity to care through the experience of caring and being cared for. Moreover, a little act of kindness creates an endless ripple.

Caring should be expressed on multiple levels in a school.  In effect, it all starts from the principal, the level of teachers as they work collaboratively, and the level students as they work with peers.

How can school leaders be caring?

To be a caring leader, one must understand the five core elements revolving around caring relationships. These five elements are:

  1. Attentiveness
  2. Motivational displacement
  3. Situational
  4. Mutuality
  5. Authenticity

To express care to others, leaders must engage deeper and longer relationships, which involve the core element–attentiveness.

Perhaps, students in a school are in the zone of proximal emotional development. With this, they perceive the interactions from a supportive adult as a manifestation of compassion. In this case, it is the principal, teachers, or other school leaders.

Other than that, one condition to express care is trust. Trust is an expectation that others will be honest, and exert effort in good faith effort.

By creating a base of mutual support, it is a basic regard for the dignity of others!

In addition, caring leaders should also understand that continuity is also a vital enabling condition.  This can be enhanced when there is a connection between the past, present, and future because it creates a context for the relationship.

Furthermore, a caring leadership provides a safe, secure and conducive learning environment for the students.  This should be of utmost priority for a caring leader.

Next, caring leaders should inculcate the sense of ownership, share responsibility, and acknowledge accountability to motivate others to succeed. This will yield mutuality in the school environment.

How can this be practiced in schools?

As one cliché goes, “sharing is caring.”

Technically, low mobility or turnover among the teachers and students can engage a more stable, trustworthy, deeper and longer relationship. As a result, this creates the enabling condition for caring.

For the principal, he or she should never neglect teachers’ socio-emotional health. Teachers, who are cared for and supported, may provide classroom environments. As a result, this will contribute to broader goals of youth development.

When principals express care about teachers’ well-being, students are more likely to excel.

Moreover, school leaders should restructure schooling as caring communities. Actions that could be done include:

  1. engaging the school community in a shared vision
  2. introducing self-assessments related to caring among school members
  3. shaping school organizational culture through supportive structures
  4. nurture caring relationships in the school community.

How could this affect the school?

The school in which the leaders express care for, the students become more engaged as they have the sense of belonging to the school.

Students in the school ends up motivated and productive. In lieu to this, being caring can contribute to students’ academic achievement too.

Essentially, social and emotional learning (SEL) has a direct impact on one’s ability to show compassion. When people such as the students are responsible and if they have the sense of being a part of the community, this will develop a healthier mindset in children, eventually causing them to thrive.

Apart from that, a caring community will make people feel respected as they treat each other with dignity. Despite his or her position or niche in that school, equal opportunities lead to personal growth or professional development.

Therefore, a caring school leader will enable teachers to engage more interactively with the students, with more interesting and creative materials, and break the rigid boundary between adults and students.

At the end of the story, caring leadership can build a positive learning community in which every member cares and everyone can flourish.


Louis, K. S., Murphy, J., & Smylie, M. (2016). Caring Leadership in Schools Findings From Exploratory Analyses. Educational Administration Quarterly, 0013161X15627678.

Differentiating lessons and catering to individual learner needs

A major aspect of differentiating the process is by using different materials and resources.  As a result, this must suit the need of the learners and the demands of the activity.

Though it may sound like a spectacle of sorts,  the quality of teaching is proportionally affected by the quality of learning materials and resources we use in class.

Differentiating content

In gauging the quality of teaching materials and resources,  we have to ask these questions:

  1. Are these resources and materials relevant to my lesson and my activity?
  2. Are these resources and materials appropriate for my students—their needs and their preferences?
  3. Will these resources and materials help my students in achieving their learning objectives?

However, the questioning does not stop there. The quality of these resources and materials had to be tested in the classroom.

For example, let’s take a look at one lesson in exploring the concept of IDENTITY through the movie, Divergent.

First, in introducing the concept of ‘Identity’,  the teacher may use the latest movie (Divergent, a movie adapted from a novel) students could relate with.

Assuming that a lot of students were able to watch this movie and read the book, they may easily able to grasp the concept.

On the other hand, some students may not be familiar with the book or the movie. So we may use slides (PowerPoint) to show the different factions and let some students share what they know about the movie and the book.

Through this harmonious use of resources and materials, students get a clear picture of the concept that leads to a meaningful and productive learning experience.

Differentiating the process

Various classroom activities lead to a higher level of learning outcome and holistic engagement (Marzano and Brown 157).

Again, this is anchored on the principles of differentiation.  Perhaps, we may plan teaching sessions in such a way that we divide the entire 80 minutes  into different segments of various relevant activities.  Thus, this leads to the realization of the learning objectives.

There is a need to put emphasis on the ‘Tuning In’ or motivation stage of the lesson. The first 15 minutes of the lesson is crucial in catching and keeping learners’ interest throughout the lesson.

By using social interactive strategies,teachers could catch the students’ attention. For example, teachers may refer to the latest  in popular culture.  More importantly, it’s always good to provide opportunities for students to talk about themselves.

As for maintaining their interest and making them stay on task, inconsequential competition could make the students more engaged.

During collaborative activities, students could work on differentiated tasks that follow the Multiple Intelligence theory.  As such, teachers may use a variety of question structures to make the students talk about their work.

Of course, stating the learning objectives at the start of the class and by reminding the students of their goals for the day help in managing the class.

By differentiating lessons, studentsMore importantly, teachers work specially on individual needs of the learners. won’t stray away from accomplishing their learning objectives. More importantly, teachers work specially on individual needs of the learners.

Engaging learners through curiosity and creativity

How do we keep learners engaged?  Getting engaged could lead to positive learning outcomes. However, achieving this is also a huge challenge for any educator.

Engagement is a major factor in pushing the students.  Perhaps to reach their full potentials, teachers need to make sure that students are holistically into what they are doing. (Marzano and Brown 157)

learners and creativity

Learners’ motivation 

Motivation is a powerful tool when dealing with any kind of learner. In effect, the power of knowing one’s students becomes effective in planning and carrying out activities.

The first five minutes 

The first minutes of the class play a crucial part in the learning cycle. Hence, teachers always need to make sure to open the class with a motivational activity.  Moreover, this should vary every now and then.

There is a need to spend a great deal of time thinking of a creative way to start the class.  After laying down the goals and outcome for the day, fun activities should jumpstart the lesson.

For example, this could be in the form of a game, a rhetorical question, a short clip, a song, an anecdote, etc.

These activities should be in the first 15 minutes of the session.  In effect, these lead to students getting hooked to class and wanting to learn more in the remaining time of the session.

Keeping learners productive 

One student quipped, “In English class, we’re always busy and time passes by so fast.”

Highly engaged students usually give positive feedback on their learning.  Furthermore,  students immersed in their work will always remember their lessons even after years pass by.  When asked about their work completed years back, productive students could easily relay what they did years ago.

learners in action

The value of creativity 

It is always good to know that students enjoy what they’re doing. It’s part of our basic human instincts that we do things best when we enjoy it.

Creativity is a key, and it is personal. Thus, in fostering learners’ creativity, it is a must that we know what our students want.

It is good to give them structure sometimes, but differentiating tasks make it more meaningful and personal to them.

For example, we could have just asked our students to do a research and write a journal, but that won’t foster creativity. As such, we’d rather give them options as to how they could show their research: by drawing, making a mind map, a PowerPoint, or short notes.

When learners are given the option based on their preferences, we allow them to explore their strengths. Eventually, this opens up doors to a collaborative environment and a better learning atmosphere banking on strengths.


Marzano, Robert and Brown, John. A Handbook for the Art and Science of Teaching. US: ASCD, 2009. Print.

21st century teachers and students: The challenge of taking on the role as evaluators

Working in a school maximizes the learning curve of a teacher who also takes on roles as evaluators.  Being a teacher does not just limit one to teach in the classroom but also to learn from this environment.

As such, how can exposure to such ensure teaching and learning could improve in the process?

Students beyond students and as evaluators

Acquiring feedback on practices

Teaching is a never-ending process of learning. For a teacher to continue to improve his/her craft and avoid stagnation, it is a must to be involved in socialized practices.

In effect, these include collaborative means of acquiring feedback.  Likewise, this is something that any teacher won’t be able to learn from a teaching school.

Effective teachers learn best from practice.  In relation to this, teachers develop through time.  Perhaps, this is through a valuable acquisition of feedback from their peers and most especially the learners.

As teachers, we only get to realize the value of our program once we put them into practice. Whatever is written on paper will not reach its purpose until it has been tested in the four corners of the classroom.

Moreover, the best way to gauge the effectiveness of such plans is through consistent and coherent practice.

Henceforth, this can be evaluated by the use of feedback from our peers and from the learners.

Inviting peers as evaluators

Our fellow teachers have a major role in evaluating what we’re doing in the classroom. In fact, we have shared relevant experiences that no other supervisor, principal or superintendent could match.

Regardless of which subject area or level they teach, our peers share the same principles, methodologies, and practices that we do in our class. Though teaching from a different background, teachers can look at the universality of the topics.  In spite of differences in background, it is the practice that matters.

Being in the same department doesn’t really play a crucial impact at all.  More importantly, it is the feedback from an ‘outsider’ who is open-minded and critical that matters.

Students as evaluators

In a way, students, as the school’s primary stakeholder, have the full authority to evaluate teaching and activities.

This is due to the fact that they are the ones at the receiving end of the learner objectives. If they weren’t able to achieve these objectives through various means then teachers failed in transcending these goals to them.

Conservative teachers might think that these students, as young individuals, don’t have the capacity and responsibility to give a constructive feedback. For some,  adults should not take the children’s words seriously.

Perhaps, this is one of the best things we could impart to our students—how they could be effective evaluators.

If students could give such feedback, through guided reflection and other feedback gathering tools, then it’s a manifestation that they were able to express their learning.

Through reflections, students do not only think about what they have learned. As a matter of fact,  they also examine what happened around them including how the teacher has helped or could help them in the long run (Marzano and Brown, 78).

Such accounts could tell instantly say whether teachers do their part.  These are also indicators whether teachers meet the set objectives through the various teaching strategies.

In reality, effective practices involve the school community. As teachers, we should always look for constructive feedback from our peers and from our students.


Marzano, Robert and Brown, John. A Handbook for the Art and Science of Teaching. US: ASCD, 2009. Print.

Working towards educational change through sound leadership

Evolution is a process driven by change.

The state we are in will never be a reality without the prior changes that have taken place throughout the course of history that has an effect on our individuality.

This is just one of the countless ways to define the abstraction of change. To say that ‘change’ has a definitive definition undermines the existence of this notion. Change is such a powerful driving force that everything in this realm operates under it.

change defined by politics

Contextualising Change

A general understanding of the notion of change needs to be put in place before probing deeper into a more contextual appreciation of this concept. Change is an “emotional process.” It is transformational and dynamic.

Although it can be argued that there is no improvement without change, not all changes lead to improvement. Being a process, change takes time and needs time. Hence, it is a journey that is best explored alongside the varying responses and effects that come with it.

To better understand this idea, Kritsonis (2005) compared five theories of change in claiming that “change is a real phenomenon.”

It is apparent that all theories generally revolve around factors leading to outcomes.

In explaining the phenomenon of change, Lewin’s three-step change theory captures the core of change as a rational process. This refers to breaking the status-quo, allowing further development, and managing sustainability (Lewin, 1951 in Kritsonis, 2005).

Whether one sees it from a rational or emotional perspective, change comes in different forms shaped by time and the drive to go beyond the norms.

Educational change

Considering that change covers a broad spectrum, it is imperative to narrow it down in the context of education.

From a sociological point of view, education exists as society’s primary institution. Communist theorist Karl Marx believes that the society needs to establish education [and propaganda] first to provide guidance and improve the lives of the people (Kellner, 2006).

education needs social change

In effect, we need to focus on the roles of educators in this change process. Due to obvious reasons, they share baseline perspectives that initially spark ideas, passion, and the need for changes whether it is of a small scale or a bigger scale (Keane, 2015).

Henceforth, the need to focus on developing and harnessing the potential of educators to be catalysts of change must be reinforced through further research.

Even though this sounds obvious in some societies, it is still highly debatable. Most countries throughout the world have low regards of the power that educators could bring forth in social development.

Despite the social changes and promising development it could bring, it is disheartening that education seems to be the lowest priorities in less economically developed countries (LEDC’s) and the bottom range of more economically developed countries (MEDC).

Leadership and educational change

Perhaps, the quantity and quality of change agents in these regions lead to deficiency of initiative in educational change in LEDC’s and some MEDC’s.

Here comes the idea of having a strong LEADER different from a manager or an administrator.

With the emerging theoretical framework governing different notions and styles of leaderships, one has to wonder whether these modern and continuously developed styles of leadership happen in the LEDCs.

It is easy to define an ideal form of leadership or to list 20 or so ways of effective leadership, but to put theory into practice is another part of the discussion.

Having all these leadership dogmas in place, why is it difficult to replicate success of educational change and leadership? Although it sounds so good to be true, why are these ideals too far from reality?

We might be asking for heavens to materialise on earth. However, if everybody follows instructional leadership ideals coined by Fullan, Leithwood, Hallinger, and Harris , then all of us would be enjoying the euphoria of utopia.

“Every person [in this room] has influence more than formal leaders.”

Titles do not equate to leadership. As such, titles without vision or action are meaningless in the field of education where we need genuine reforms.

clamour for change in schools

From ideas to reality

The problem with leaders these days is that they end up so engulfed by their ego that they forget the basics of humanity: compassion.

Numerous key performance indices drive educational “leaders” away from reality. In effect, they fail to make people or even themselves understand change.

We are missing the point when we rationalise change with numbers and letters. Social change is an “emotional process” dealing with human actions and attitudes.

With that, leaders should have a clear vision to help shape the future of education. In addition,  leaders must inculcate a strong desire to inspire schools to be the best they could be.

To fully grasp the idea of educational change as a process, one needs a clear idea of reality. Leaders must scrutinise the ideals set for change and leadership.

History has always been turning the wheels of educational change.

It is a journey of learning. We need to look back at the changes in the past.  In the end,  we could modify the future of education through sound leadership.



Keane, Lorna. (2015, April 20). Why Educators are the Driving Force of Change in Education. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from

Kellner, D. (2006). Marxian Perspectives on Educational Philosophy: From Classical Marxism to Critical Pedagogy.

Kritsonis, A. (2005). Comparison of change theories. International journal of scholarly academic intellectual diversity, 8(1), 1-7.

Differentiating educational leadership models and theories

In the complex world of educational leadership, we tend to skip the basics like acknowledging the existence of simple ideas.

Perhaps, this is a widely neglected process deemed unnecessary in a fast paced world.

However, before interpreting complicated ideas, there is a need to start off with the basics of identifying and defining.

Between models and theories

Before probing deeper into educational leadership theories, it is justifiable to lay a solid foundation by defining key terminologies.   Therefore, we must consider looking into an overview of contemporary leadership theories.

Based on varied readings in educational change by Michael Fullan, as well as Prof. Alma Harris and Dr. Michelle Jones’ articles on capacity building and professional learning community, we have been acquainted with the general idea of leadership in the field of education and distributed leadership.  Hence, educational leadership models and theories are not really alien terms at all.

 As an overview on contemporary theories and models in leadership, Prof.  Harris and Dr. Jones have given us a general introduction on the contemporary theories in educational leadership: trait, transactional, transformational, distributed, and instructional.

Consequently, it has been important to define key terms like ‘contemporary’, ‘model’, and ‘theory’ before we get to narrow down to the specific theories.

As basic as it may seem, these essentials help us set shared definitions of these key terms.  Otherwise, we will all be coming up with our own, Google-driven definitions of models, theories, and instructional leadership.

Leadership from contemporary models

Of course, it is the practice of instructional leadership that matters.

More notably, leadership is a driving force in an academic institution.  In effect, it is this force that drives the curriculum, the staff, and the entire school itself.

Other than that, leadership here does not refer to the personification but the abstraction.  Thus, instructional leadership leads to the realization of a school’s success.

According to Dr. Michelle’s, there are other instructional leadership models aside from the most widely used model by Hallinger & Murphy.

Hence, we looked into Robinson’s model and other models and made a simple chart that collates important points for comparison:

Instructional leadership

Despite the differences in their wordings, it can be noted that the models that come after Hallinger and Murphy (1985) share the fundamentals of instructional leadership:  school goals, instructional program, and school climate.

In addition, the later models of Spillane, et al. (2004) and Robinson (2011) extend the Hallinger models by dissecting the school leader’s role in the areas of teaching and learning.

After learning the fundamentals in contemporary theories and models in educational leadership, it is just proper for us to go beyond and practice these in our roles in our schools as instructional leaders.

Eventually, we hope to gauge the effectiveness of these dimensions on the teaching and learning process not just in my classes but also in my department and organisation.



Adams, D., Harris, A., Jones, M., and Siaw, Y. (2016). Lecture on Contemporary Theories and Models in Educational Leadership. Personal Collection of Dr Adams, et al., University of Malaya.

Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (1996). Reassessing the principal’s role in school effectiveness: A review of empirical research, 1980-1995. Educational Administration Quarterly, 32(1), 5–44.

Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond (2004) Towards a theory of leadership practice: a distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36(1), 3-34.

Balancing educational leadership perspectives for aspiring school leaders

The past decade sees a rise in studies seeking to correlate educational leadership practices and school effectiveness.

Noticeably,  these studies lead to the development of theories and models to provide either an explanation to the success of schools or a solution to the underwhelming performance of certain academic institutions.

As such, this brief critical analysis looks into three contemporary educational leadership perspectives from Tony Bush (2007), Leithwood, et al. (2008), and Alma Harris (2012).

Nature of leadership

Firstly, from a psychosocial standpoint, leadership rests on personal, cultural, and behavioural aspects manifested and exerted in relationships (Kouzes & Posner, 2012; Maxwell,  2007; Collins, 2011). As a result, leading people requires an introspective character of adaptability and the willingness to model such.

Character of a school leader

Leading people requires an introspective character of adaptability and the willingness to model such behaviors as noted by Kouzes & Posner (2012) and Maxwell (2007).  When applied in organizations, Collins (2011) emphasizes the strong, positive impact of personal humility, professional drive, creativity and discipline in leadership.

Educational leadership follows this psychosocial framework in fully understanding the dynamics of this cognitive activity (Spillane, et al., 1999).

Although there is no single way of defining educational leadership (Bush, 2003), it still follows the underlying values of leadership as a behavioural process but limited to the school context (Fullan, 2009; Spillane & Diamond, 2007).

Moreover, current studies in educational leadership highlight the presence of school leaders particularly principals taking on roles such as “compass setting, human development, and organizational development” (Spillane & Diamond, 2007).  In his book, The Challenge of Change, Michael Fullan (2009)

The presence of the principal

Current studies in educational leadership highlight the presence of school leaders particularly principals taking on roles such as “compass setting, human development, and organizational development” (Spillane & Diamond, 2007).  For example, in his book, The Challenge of Change, Michael Fullan (2009) contextualizes leadership as a “tri-level model” that expands the responsibilities of leadership not just in schools but in district and state levels.

The need to go beyond a simplified conceptualisation of educational leadership emanates from politically-driven demands for reformation of schools towards effectiveness and “higher standards” (Fullan, 2009; Harris, et al., 2003).

 Perhaps, this is not just a concern of developing students in the classroom or making teachers do what they need to do. However, Harris (2003, 2016) stresses that this is about reforming school systems towards globalised educational standards induced by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the ‘Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS), and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Consequently, school leaders have to work backwards in ensuring government policies trickle down to the school’s visions and to student outcomes (Bush, 2003, p. 4).

Tony Bush: Educational Leadership and Management Theory

In explaining the concept of educational leadership, Tony Bush (2007) clearly contextualizes this as a process of change in a school setting and differentiates it from management as a process of maintenance.

Educational leadership versus management

Although contrasting in process, educational leadership and management must both be practiced together in achieving the school’s objectives so as to be functional as a system.

 Furthermore, Bush (2003) categorizes educational management and leadership according to specific models to provide multiple perspectives in explaining educational leadership:

Likewise from all these different models,  a single model cannot define educational leadership.  Notably, management and leadership share parallel dimensions geared towards teaching and learning (Bush, 2007).

Instructional leadership as a process

Despite the variety of approaches, educational leadership remains as a “process of influence based on clear values and beliefs and leading to a vision for the school” (Bush, 2007, p. 403).  Henceforth, by synthesizing the themes of these educational management and leadership models, Bush (2003) leads to a clear definition of instructional leadership as a process and a

Hence, by synthesizing the themes of these educational management and leadership models, Bush (2003) leads to a clear definition of instructional leadership as a process.  Also, it is the mindset of leaders to ensure that quality of teaching and learning to be prioritised at the classroom and school-level.

Although Bush (2007) provides a clear overview of the models in educational management and leadership in the context of South African schools, a more in-depth and distinct discussion of these leadership perspectives should be further elaborated in different social contexts.

 In contrast, concrete leadership and management practices should then be explored following these models in different regions or countries for future school leaders to evaluate these principles according to how they are practiced in reality.

Leithwood, et al.:  Seven Strong Claims about Successful School Leadership

The study by Leithwood, et al. (2008) is something more controversial. It outlines the following seven strong claims about successful school leadership:

“1. School leadership is second only to classroom teaching as an influence on pupil learning.

2. Almost all successful leaders draw on the same repertoire of basic leadership practices.

3. The ways in which leaders apply these basic leadership practices – not the practices themselves – demonstrate responsiveness to, rather than dictation by, the contexts in which they work.

4. School leaders improve teaching and learning indirectly and most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment and working conditions.

5. School leadership has a greater influence on schools and students when it is widely distributed.

6. Some patterns of distribution are more effective than others.

7. A small handful of personal traits explains a high proportion of the variation in leadership effectiveness. “

 The reality of school leadership

In comparison, Bush’ (2007) conceptualization of educational leadership warrants empirical evidence. On the other hand, Leithwood’s (2008) literature review builds up the claims not from mere theories but from qualitative and quantitative data.

As a result, this presents a more realistic outlook in elaborating leadership in schools by using documented practices and findings directly from schools themselves.

However, despite the attempt to provide a closer look into educational leadership practices, this review lacks specific contextualisation of the research findings.

Is it safe to assume that this is based on research among schools in the UK as commissioned by the NCSL?  What is the timeframe of research for this literature review?

Clearly, without an indication of the sources of the research, there will be danger in the assumption that this is a global perspective when the claims are only based on a particular region or country.

Alma Harris: Distributed Leadership and its Implications on Principals

In relation to the literature review by Leithwood, et al. (2008), Alma Harris (2012) provides a more specific support to the seven claims about successful school leadership by addressing the need for school principals to adapt a more distributive approach and its implications.

Generally speaking, based on the premise that the distribution of leadership has a direct impact on student achievement, school leaders are expected to renounce transactional ways. Thus, they need to aim for a more interactive and shared leadership built on a high degree of trust (Leithwood, et al., 2008; Harris, 2012).

For this reason, drawing from a wide array of literature, Harris (2012) integrates early conceptions of educational leadership and concocts a form of leadership addressing the current needs and reality of school systems.

Sharing of leadership

Furthermore,  distributed leadership takes its cue from earlier studies suggesting leadership as a social activity involving several people. In addition, distributed leadership sets the tone for transformation and school achievement through “shared vision and commitment to school change” (Hallinger, 2003; Spillane, 2007; Leithwood, et al., 2008).

Besides, in response to other studies seeking for evidence on leadership practices of distribution beneficial for schools (Bush, 2007; Leithwood, et al, 2008), the literature review of Harris (2012, p.10) brings out a strong point that “purposeful or planned leadership distribution is more likely to impact positively on school development and change” based on empirical evidence.

On the other hand, veering away from the establishment of systems lead by a single person, Harris’ (2012) literature review offers a whole new approach to how leadership should be practiced in order to achieve or sustain high standards in schools.

Although backed up by research evidence, the principle behind distributed leadership looks ideal on paper. However, the practice still remains in question.

In relation to that, skepticism towards the 360-degree shift from a traditionally driven transactional approach.  Likewise, this can be addressed by a number of research studies from 2001-2009 in school transformation, school leadership, organisational change, and student outcomes (Harris, 2012, pp. 11-13).

Genuine distribution of leadership

In as much as this article adds value to earlier researches, there is still a need  “to develop, foster and actively encourage new, diverse and distributed models of leadership that can transform schools and school systems” (Harris, 2012, pp. 16).

Therefore, is it safe to assume that the empirical evidence for this review comes from a Western perspective with schools from the UK or US as points of reference?

Equally important, if this is the case, then further studies need to be conducted in other regions. Consequently, this is to present a universal case for distributed leadership.

Probably, it would be interesting to note in the future how distributed leadership could function in some Asian countries.  Accordingly, these countries value leadership deeply rooted in hierarchical systems patterned after Confucian ideals.

The Future of School Leadership

Like any other organization, schools function as a system that requires sound leadership to achieve its goals.

In general, Bush, Leithwood et al., and Harris provide a rich perspective on the continuous search for ways to guide school leaders. Nevertheless, these theories aim to improve not only student outcomes but also the learning process itself through leadership.

Subsequently, for the improvement of learning, these leadership perspectives have to be synergistically put into practice. Finally, these practices need be continuously evaluated critically, empirically, and universally in the decades to come.


Bush, T., & Bush, T. (2003). Theories of educational leadership and management. London: Sage Publications.

Bush, T. (2007). “Educational leadership and management: Theory, policy and practice.” South African Journal of Education 27(3): 391-406.

Collins, J. C., & Hansen, M. T. (2011). Great by choice: Uncertainty, chaos, and luck: Why some thrive despite them all. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Fullan, M. (2009). The challenge of change: Start school improvement now! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Harris, A. (2011). “Distributed leadership: Implications for the role of the principal.” Journal of Management Development 31(1): 7-17.

Harris, A. (2003). Effective leadership for school improvement. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Harris, A., & Jones, M. S. (2016). Leading futures: Global perspectives on educational leadership. Sage Publications.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Leithwood, K., et al. (2008). “Seven strong claims about successful school leadership.” School Leadership and Management 28(1): 27-42.

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). Talent is never enough: Discover the choices that will take you beyond your talent. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Spillane, J. P., & Diamond, J. B. (2007). Distributed leadership in practice. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Why everyone must adopt modeling in leadership

We always define leadership with leading and rarely with modeling. Ironically, the first word that came out of our mouth was the first word we heard.

The first letter we wrote started from following strokes. The first sentence we composed was from putting together clustered strokes to form letters, words, and sentences.

Before we scored our first goal, we had witnessed how Messi did his countless of times.  Before we played the piano, we wondered at how Chopin or Beethoven performed their timeless pieces.

This is why modeling matters.  This is why good leadership starts with good modeling. It may sound like a simple idea, but we are so consumed by the promises of complex leadership theories. Hence, we are skipping the basics.

There might be 101 ways to define, describe, and discuss ideal leadership practices. As a socio-cognitive activity like talking or writing, leading starts with modeling.

Leadership photo taken from a way, modeling is as simple as an action of mimicking or copying actions. On the other hand, it could be more than that. From the point of view of the doer, modeling is an act of presenting an idealized character or persona based on contextualized values.

Although non-exhaustive, this list of values range related to ethics, morality, political, and socio-cultural ideologies.  Depending on the context of the scenario or the demand of the situation, leaders model the ways. Followers emulate the ways.

Furthermore, Kouzes & Posner (2012) point out that our behavior and actions as leaders inspire workplace engagement.  Leaders inspire through loyalty, motivation, commitment, and pride.  It’s a no-brainer that leaders who walk the talk get high respect from the member of the organization.

Therefore, in modeling the way, leaders must perform exemplary tasks.

Clarify values

First, we need to find our inner voice.

‘Who am I?’

This inner voice serves as our set of values–our guide. This influences key aspects of our lives and serves as a basis of our important decisions.

To make it personal yet highly relevant, our values must reflect our words and thoughts. These need to be aligned with the organization’s values.

In our case, we go with the acronym PITC4H: Patience, Integrity, Tolerance, Compassion, Competency, Consistency, Credibility, and Humility.  In every single thing that we do, we remind ourselves that how we act should be in accordance with what we believe.

At times when we falter, we pull back, reflect, and make amends.

Affirm shared values 

Once we’re certain of our own values, we have to check what others believe in.  By arriving at essential agreements, a unified voice leads to a team’s shared values.

With these shared values at the core, the members of the team will have reasons to care and commit to the vision along the way.

 This is the part where keen observation and amicable communication kick in.  For established teams, it’s just a matter of sustaining through regular and informal chats.

 However, whenever new people join our team, we usually start off giving them all the opportunity to share their experiences and expectations.

Then, we explain to them what we do and encourage them to align their expectations with what has always been expected from us.

We would have started the other way around by telling new members of our team who we are, what we do, and what they must do.  In hindsight, affirming shared values is different from imposing shared values.

 Set the example

From talking to walking… Values without actions are just mere thoughts dangling on thin air.  After clearly defining our inner voice and affirming values with others, we need to live these shared values consistently. It may sound as simple as ‘be a good organizational citizen’, but practicing this takes a great deal of time.

After clearly defining our inner voice and affirming values with others, we need to live these shared values consistently. It may sound as simple as ‘be a good organizational citizen’, but practicing this takes a great deal of time.

Leadership photo collage taken from

 We always dread deadlines.  Aside from reminding our fellow colleagues about what we need to accomplish, we usually show them that we are doing it with them.  In effect, we also work collaboratively to complete everything before the set deadline.

Although we risk adding pressure to them or being misunderstood as a ‘show-off’, we would rather be a ‘good organizational citizen’ and live our values of integrity and competency consistently.

Other than that, when the greatest thinkers of history–Confucius, Jesus Christ, and Prophet Muhammad–all proclaimed “follow the way” in their teachings, what they really meant was “model the way.”  This age-old teaching seems to have been lost under the dust of complex thoughts.

Finally, we need to go back to the basics–the simplest thoughts that genuinely lies within us and the simplest actions that anybody can instinctively follow.

 This is why modeling matters in leadership.


Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge Workbook. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.

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