According to J. Seyfarth, there are four types of leadership styles: directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented leadership (Seyfarth, 1996). These styles vary from one another, but all may be visible within a school environment. During a recent interview with an elementary school principal, Amy Zilbar, she described her dominate leadership style as supportive (personal communication, April 25, 2013).
As a principal, she delegates many tasks throughout the school year and gives support, as needed, to the staff member that is responsible for that job.
She reflected that she attempts to make personal connections with all of her staff members and wants them to feel as if they are equals within their school community. She strives to have day to day interactions with her staff so that she can get to know her staff on an individual basis. When staff members are upset or struggling within the school setting, she encourages them to think of possible solutions to solve the problem. If it is more of a personal issue, she will listen and offer support.
She encourages her staff to come together to form decisions and the more she can put into the staffs’ hands, the better.
She feels this allows the staff to feel they are being heard and acknowledged. Some examples of activities when she has been a supportive leader was developing the agenda of a recent open house, creating a school-wide survey monkey to verify the effectiveness of the school, and developing the school’s Continuous Improvement Model (A. Zilbar, personal communication, April 25, 2013). Leadership Characteristics A. Zilbar claimed that the main leadership characteristic is being an effective listener (personal communication, April 25, 2013).
She strongly feels that by listening to others has helped to build the positive relationships she has with her staff. She also feels that communication is key to running a successful school. By listening, asking the right questions, and weighing all of the options, has helped her to be a successful communicator. Other characteristics she feels that have helped her to be a supportive leader are respecting all stakeholders in her school community, being sympathetic and trustworthy; and being seen as resource and an effective coach to her staff members.
Zilbar discussed that coaching has become an integral part of her position in the last few years. She reflected that the focus within schools has shifted dramatically to the way instruction is being delivered and student learning. Because of this shift, she has had to move into a coaching role where she is supporting teachers and providing specific feedback on the instructional practices she is observing. Based on these observations she has tried to individualize the professional development for her staff so that instruction will improve (A. Zilbar, personal communication, April 25, 2013). Read learning styles essay
Examples of Styles
Within the school setting, Ms. Zilbar stated she has had to use other leadership styles because of different situations that have arisen. For example, she has had to use the more directive approach when having to deal with a teacher that was arriving to school late on a regular basis. Other examples when she has had to use this approach were when teachers were not leaving substitute plans when absent, any safety issues concerning students or staff members, and issues that directly impact instruction. Zilbar reflected that at times she does enjoy using the participative leadership approach.
She feels that when she is the participant on different committees that the teachers take more ownership in implementing the plan agreed upon. Times when she is more of a participant is during “administration meetings” (A. Zilbar, personal communication, April 25, 2013). During these meetings a committee meets to discuss specific needs for individual students within the school. The committee brainstorms several solutions and then as a group decides on the most effective solution for that specific solution. Another example when she only participates in the decision making is during the steering committee meetings.
During this time a group of teachers come together to meet and discuss a variety of issues that need to be solved. Again, as a group, they brainstorm possible solutions and Ms. Zilbar is an equal participant. Ms. Zilbar reflected that she often uses the achievement-oriented leadership approach because this is what drives their instruction. She often looks at data (FAIR, science, formative assessments, I-Station, RTI) and meets with professional learning communities to develop a plan of action to meet the needs of the individual students (A. Zilbar, personal communication, April 25, 2013).
She also meets with each teacher and reviews the students’ reports cards. During these report card chats, they determine what the main focus for instruction should be within this specific classroom. As a principal she feels that her leadership style may change depending on the different situations that develop. She has to look at each individual situation, as well as, each individual teacher, and best decide which leadership approach would work best. Impact of Theories When talking about leadership theories that have impacted the leadership style of the Ms.Zilbar, she talked in-depth about the impact of a training on “inspirational leadership theory” (A. Zilbar, personal communication, April 25, 2013). After listening to her describe this theory, it closely aligns to the open-systems perspectives as described by W. Hoy. In the open-systems perspective the focus is on both the structure and process. According to Hoy in an open-systems perspective, “to survive, the organization must adapt and to adapt, it must change” (2007, p. 21). This is similar to the inspirational leadership theory in that it allows the teachers to reflect and make changes in order to improve.
Zilbar feels this theory is closest to her personal style of interacting with people as it is collaborative and allows her to connect on a personal level with teachers to bring out their individual strengths (personal communication, April 25, 2013). In the school setting she follows this theory because it empowers and motivates her teachers to form professional learning communities to solve problems. She feels this theory aligns well to other school programs already in place, such as Conscious Discipline and Character Education.
With the recent changes in our school district, Ms. Zilbar has noticed a decrease in teacher moral. Using the inspirational theory, she feels it is helping to increase the confidence level of teachers and challenging them to work together towards a common goal, improving student learning. Personal Leadership Style When reflecting on what type of leader I might be in the future, I can see myself as a participative leader. I believe within a school setting, the administration wears many hats and has to adjust to based on the current situation being dealt with.
I have worked in a variety of school settings with administrators that have had different leadership styles. The one leadership style that I feel I would try not to be as a principal a directive leader. I do not feel this helps with motivating teachers and often times they may begin to resent the principal because they have no ownership in the decision-making process. The participative style is the closest to my own personal style of interacting with people. I feel it is important that teachers know we are all equal and in order to create a positive culture, collaboration is key.
In my personal life, when having to make decisions, I like to involve my family to think of different solutions so that we have a several choices to effectively solve problems. When dealing with students, I believe many need t a variety of strategies and instructional practices in order to reach their goals. Collaborating with a professional learning community will help to empower teachers and improve student learning. Review of Leadership Styles Prior to completing this assignment and the required readings, I did not know a great deal about the different leadership styles.
After reading the article written by Seyfarth, it showed me the importance of creating a work environment where teachers feel they are “being treated as an important person” (Seyfarth, 1996, p. 2) and “having a good relationship with one’s supervisor” (Seyfarth, 1996, p. 2). These two statements really made me think about what type of leader I should be, so that I could create a school culture that is stress-free, and one that will empower the teachers to reach their professional goals. From personal experience, I do not feel the directive leadership style allows teachers to feel part of the team.
Teachers that have this type of leader feel inferior to their administration and do not work as hard in achieving the school’s goals. I can see how this type of leadership may be needed (safety issues), but it should be used with caution. The other three types of leadership styles, participative, supportive, and achievement-oriented would be needed more frequently and would help to create a positive work environment. I feel that using the participative and supportive leadership style helps to make teachers feel they are an integral part of the decision-making process within the school.
It is also important to use the achievement-oriented style in order to drive instruction. This is key in order to improve student learning within the school. I do not think, as an administrator, you can focus on just one style. You may have a dominate leadership style, but you will have to adapt to deal with different situations. Impact of Interview The interview with Amy Zilbar really had an impact when I reflected on what type of leader I would be. She is not my current administrator, but I have many interactions with the teachers and students in this school.
She has created an environment where teachers are excited about coming to work. They are focused on student learning and truly build personal relationships with the students within their own classroom, as well as, students throughout the school. The teachers have formed effective professional learning communities and the focus of the school is not only student learning, but teacher learning. Instead of having monthly staff meetings, they have incorporated meetings called, “Opportunity to Learn” (A. Zilbar, personal communication, April 25, 2013).
These are professional development opportunities based on current data and suggestions made by teachers. This principal has also changed the focus of the current resource teachers because of the input given by teachers. These resource teachers have become more like team teachers and coaches where they help the classroom teachers as they instruct alongside them. This principal has truly created a productive working atmosphere where teachers are the main decision-makers and a school culture I will strive to create one day.
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