Question: How does one cope with such ineffective leadership, particularly when it concerns upper administration? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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This is a tough one. I have experienced ineffectiveness at many levels. It is hard to explain how it has impacted me, however, it drove me to return to college to attain certification so I could move from the classroom to a formal leadership position. I knew I could do it better. This situation started with an unapproachable principal who basically let the building morale decline due to top-down leadership, an environment of fear and lack of support. We, the grade levels I taught, banded together to make our lives more bearable. This worked for a while but our energy was drained permanently. Eventually most of us transferred, or left.

Ineffectiveness can be so many things. With upper administration it is difficult to confront. Is it a micromanaging style, us versus them, lack of support, no vision?

Perhaps it is difficult to be specific in this forum. All I know is that when my staff comes to me about a "leadership" issue, I listen and then make specific and deliberate changes in the things that I do. Without my staff believing me I know that our building and ultimately the students will be impacted negatively.
there are other forums, if you would like to pursue this discussion. it is just that important to me. let me know if you are interested in hearing my story...perhaps therein lies a challange for you!
I think your story is important for background information, and I am wondering what has been attempted so far if anything.
Clearly! The level of frustration that I am experiencing reached "critical mass, "yesterday, but I will initiate a discussion in a more professional manner when time permits.
Dealing with an ineffective leader is daunting and intimidating. There is nothing worse in our field. How do you approach such a person? How can you get them to change for the better and still keep your job?
First. Don't be afraid of it. Find colleagues who think as you do. Work together to make what you each do with your students the best teaching possible and seek those who can help. Unite for your teaching freedom.
You can lead from anywhere within the organization. You just have to learn how to effectively manage the relationships with those around you. I look back on my career and find some of my most effective leadership came from when I did not have a formal leadership position. Leading Change by Kotter is a great read which helped me understand why people follow anyone. I think that when a person operates from a positive and solid belief system consistently over time, they will be looked to as a leader regardless of what title they hold.
To be an effective leader you have to address each of McRel's 21 responsibilities, but I believe to lead change you need situational awareness most of all.
I had a mentor who gave this analogy to me which has truly impacted how I define good leadership.
If you hang a weight from a bar and then tie another string to the bottom of the weight, you can get an excellent visiual example of inertia for students. If you pull extremely hard and fast on the bottom string, the bottom string breaks and all you are left holding is the bottom piece of string. The weight will remain unaffected. If however you pull on the bottom string with consistent and adequate pressure the top string will break and thus the weight has been moved. It is knowing how hard you can pull that defines that line between productive and destructive leadership.
You need to know how hard you can pull those above you and those below you. The only way you are going to know that is if you get to know those people and let them get to know you. People must understand the values you are operating from and you need to understand their values.
I like the analogy to simple physics. Change is so difficult in a school and most shove and push and ram new initiatives. More often than not new initiatives are reactionary and come from the latest and greatest data. During the technology push in the late 90's there were so many resistors but we managed to overcome that obstacle.
I do not have this problem in my district. We have supportive administration and board. My approach has always been to get my homework done prior to going in to talk to the Supt. I have all my research, figures and how I am going to pay for it. It is also good to involve community members in your research groups and have them come with you when you present your plans to your upper administration. If everything hinges on funding, get your community on board and do some fundraising for the amount. I have dealt with this before in another district and it is frustrating, especially when you know what you are doing will make a difference.
Well let me see if I can bring some objectivity to this debate. I like to look at things like a computer. Either / or! Let's first look at what motivates most 20th Century "managers and/or administrators". #1 would be job security, #2 would be job satisfaction derived through good outcome of efforts. Now this is more like a sliding scale. In my own opinion if we take a snap shot of all schools today we have more lean toward job security. Now the way the educational system works is based on aggregate numbers. Some marginally relative test is administered to a group of students, again a snapshot in time, and arbitrary judgments determine success on the test. I mean who said that 10% at the top = A. I graduated in 1967 and I had classes that were sometimes graded by a curve. This meant that if everyone in the class got better than 80% they had a curve that placed the bulk in the middle as highest # with less at the top. In some cases when this was applied you needed a 97 to get an A. This was one of many social experiments done with the American School System and those people in "leadership" positions proudly took credit for great numbers even though the numbers were highly contrived. Where was the measure of how a student got along with others? Could they work as part of a group? Could they transfer knowledge from one subject to another and solve real world problems? Don't know. We juts did the test and "extrapolated" whatever we wanted to see from aggregate numbers.
So under the bureaucracy we have people that are good at pushing papers and churning out reports that make things look good. NCLB gave us the best example of stupidity in that when States were allowed to make their own rules we had good numbers but, since the rigor was less than the high rigor States, if the students were to go to the high rigor State they might find they dropped as much as two grade levels when they took the more rigorous test.
This is very similar to what happened with the sub prime. We see people concentrating on short term gain and numbers manipulation instead of real accomplishment and ethics.



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