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Transformative Leadership Primer

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Carolyn M. Shields

Transformative Leadership: A Primer both delivers a complete and engaging overview of transformative leadership and also clearly distinguishes it from other popular approaches to leadership. Hence, this will be the text of choice for many graduate courses in educational leadership. Carolyn M. Shields shows how the tenets of transformative leadership interact with one another, and how they provide a lens for leadership that offers an excellent, inclusive, equitable, and socially just education for all students. Using anecdotes and narratives drawn from empirical research, as well as current data, Dr. Shields establishes how transformative leadership comprises a comprehensive approach to leadership in highly diverse contexts, and how it can empower students who are traditionally marginalized due to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, home language, or religion. Accepting a mandate for educational change, reconstructing knowledge frameworks, and redistributing power in more equitable ways are starting points for transformative leaders. Changing the structures, cultures, curricula, and pedagogies of the school to be more democratic and emancipatory; acknowledging our interconnectedness and interdependence with global neighbors; and accepting responsibility for promoting both public and private good are processes that implement the transformation. Taken together, these changes cannot be accomplished without considerable collaboration, conversation, and moral courage. No leader wanting to promote excellence and equity for all should be without this primer that offers a new way of thinking about all aspects of schooling, from facilities and fiscal issues to academic programs and school policy. Transformative leadership offers a promising and robust theory of change for all situations and contexts.
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5. Transformation Underway

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Public education does not need any more managerial leaders. It does not need another round of technocrats or placeholders. Public education needs transformative leaders, leaders who are willing to ask and answer difficult questions. Children need educational leaders who are willing to create deep and meaningful change that will benefit all students. In considering their needs, I remind myself that we, as educators, choose to participate in the current system. We decide to walk through the front doors of our schools each day. We must remember, however, that our children do not make those same choices. We compel them to attend school. Their choices are directly limited by their zip codes. Indirectly, these choices are a result of their socioeconomic status.

I have been a school administrator for nearly 20 years now … I have been working to examine the underlying beliefs and tacit assumptions … I have been critically interrogating my own belief systems and the ← 141 | 142 → resulting actions … To be successful, school principals need to encourage and develop others to become transformative leaders as well. … The reality of continuous and sustainable school improvement is that, in spite of external pressure and increased political scrutiny, educators—not politicians—remain solely responsible for creating learning environments that are conducive to academic achievement.

To engage in truly transformative leadership is exhausting. It is complex. As a school principal I understand that I am a product of the very system I seek to change.

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