In 1987, Michael Jackson released the album BAD. One of most popular songs on the album which eventually went to number 1 is “Man In The Mirror.”
“I ‘m starting with the man in the mirror
I ‘m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
The lyrics of Jackson’s song speak to the core philosophy of what leadership is ultimately about. Each leader regardless of where he or she falls in the scheme of things should engage in and embrace a process of self-evaluation. Self-assessment is critical for all educators, more so for those who aspire to become school leaders. If one is desirous of being a competent, capable and effective leader then this process of examining the self is essential. This means the leader in question must muster the courage and fortitude to realize when he/she has become ineffective and then take the necessary corrective measures to become a purpose driven leader. I am particularly fond of this quote by William Arthur Ward in which he says” leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation. “I think many who are school leaders are unfamiliar with this quote since they oftentimes engage in the reverse of the quote. Leadership by intimidation is rather pervasive and speaks to a weak and insecure personality. Is it fair to say that as a society we face a crisis of leadership in our schools? The creation of the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) is an admission of this fact. A principal is held at a higher standard and rightly so based on the principle of to whom much is given much is required. One can imagine that the task of leadership, particularly principalship is enormous. However, there are some principals who should not have been. There are some principals whose ethics are questionable and whose moral compass has been defective long before they occupy the principal’s office. Anyone who assumes the position of principalship must be fit and proper in carrying out this very important task. The term fit and proper not only addresses the physiology being but also speaks to the emotional intelligence of the individual. Disturbingly, there are some principals who are not respected either by their staff, the student body or the wider society. It bares thought once you have compromised your principles you lose respect in the sight of those whom you lead. Once your subordinates lose respect for you it cannot be redeemed. As a result the school community will suffer and the school you lead will attract negative labels which no amount of public education can counter. The public perception of a school often becomes the public’s reality. The emergence of a school effectiveness culture has provided growing evidence that schools can, and do, make a difference to academic outcomes and ultimately the life chances of students. It cannot be overemphasized that teachers and school leaders are the change agents of change in any society. Policy makers must therefore do all that is necessary to put in places school leaders which are progressive and are strong in ethical principles. I am a firm believer that ineffective principalship continues to be the biggest threat to the Ministry of Education principle of “Every Child Can Learn, Every Child Must Learn.” Sadly, instead of getting rid of such ineffective principalship there are those who seek to embolden and enable such weak leaders. On the other hand, there are many good principals. I dare say such principals should be celebrated and lauded for the work they do. A good principal is one who welcomes constructive criticism and work towards building a sense of community. An effective principal is one who is fair and balanced in how situations are dealt with whether this occurs with students and or with staff. Unfortunately, not all principals are blessed with the skills of fairness and good judgment. These traits cannot be learnt at any institution, they are inborn characteristics. Our students deserve better and wherever we find instances of purposeless principalship we should call it out for what it is. The time to reject vindictive, spiteful and ghetto principalship is now. It is easy to identify this backward and negative type of principalship, sometimes all it takes is a walk across a school grounds. Perhaps the time is now for you to ask yourself what type of principalship currently exists at your child’s school or your place of work. As the academic year comes to an end you should grade yourself regarding the type of principalship style you practice? Are you satisfied being in the category of purposeless principalship or are you an effective principal? In the final analysis failure to hold principals accountable will weaken and undermine school standards. In the words of Becky Brodin, leadership is not wielding authority, it is empowering people.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.