In the article, “The Teacher Leader: Improving Schools by Building Social Capital through Shared Leadership”, Nappi (2014) argues, “Despite the documented value of skilled leadership, in today’s educational and financial climate the school principal cannot go solo. School and student success are more likely to occur when distributed or shared leadership is practiced” (p. 30).
Successful leaders show strength in integrity, their character. They possess the ability to influence others through meaningful vision, passion in their purpose, trust, action and risk-taking and empowering others (Bennis, 1998). In schools, principals are at the helm of decision-making and the outcomes affect all stakeholders. Creating change in schools can be an arduous process when considering all the stakeholders and even more difficult if leaders are not open to the necessary dialogue with the stakeholders to garner their understanding and support of the change (Johnson, 2013). Add in the multitude of other components of the job description and even the most effective leaders will benefit from having a circle of support.
This circle, or guiding team, (Kotter, 2005) is where teacher leaders come into play. These emergent leaders, empowered by their actions rather than by an appointed position (Northouse, 2004), are acknowledged by their peers as having leadership skills, showing credibility and integrity, being able to communicate and committing to the betterment of the school. (Kotter, 2005) They share the responsibility of leadership with the principal but are not recognized as sharing the helm. Teacher leaders can be catalysts for change. Their influence on others can be utilized by administrators to walk through Kotter’s (2005) Eights Steps of Successful Change. “Distributed or shared leadership implies a more cooperative view of influence and authority and is a shift from the belief that leadership is a unique characteristic that an individual has developed. Gronn found that when people collaborate and share their efforts and base of knowledge, the outcome is greater than the aggregate of their efforts as individuals” (as cited in Nappi, 2014).
“Teacher leaders are an important component of student success. Louis et al. found that shared leadership has a greater impact on student achievement than individual leadership” (as cited in Nappi, 2014). Teachers are aware of their students’ needs, the climate and culture of their school and the stakeholders related to the school. They often have a different view than the principal and are able to give critical feedback, question decisions and visions and contribute ideas. This group’s involvement allows principals the opportunity to cast a wider net of information gathering before making decisions related to student success.
It behooves administrators to expand their realm of support by empowering teacher leaders. These leaders may be the next generation of administrators. Teaching them the value of shared leadership may help to perpetuate this skill in future positions.
Bennis, W. (1998). The Character of Leadership. In M. S. Josephson and W. Hanson (Ed.), Power of Character (pp. 143-148). Bloomington, IN: Unlimited Publishing.
Johnson. J. (2013). The Human Factor. The Principalship, 70(7), 17-21. Retrieved April, 2013.
Kotter, J. P., & Rathgeber, H. (2006). Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding under any conditions. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Nappi, J. S. (2014). The Teacher Leader: Improving Schools by Building Social Capital through Shared Leadership. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(4), 29-34. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
Northouse, P. G. (2004). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.