Successful school leaders will not be content with the status quo-they look for opportunities to bring about a change for a better future of their school community. Understanding and ‘catalysing change’ in the internal environment of a school is a major task of a school leader (Nanus, 1992, p.13). According to Kotter, leading an organization to constructive change begins by setting a direction, by developing a vision of the future, along with strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision (2001, p. 4). A significantly big change can be brought about, with just a few small but influential changes in the immediate environment suggest Gladwell (1990, p.146).
In my tenure as the Junior School head of a day school, the management addressed to me the most important issue the elementary school faced – the children would not converse in English (being their second language). After a meeting and brainstorming with the faculty, we came up with one small first step – that everybody will only communicate in English at all times while in campus. After some resistance, we achieved a good response and soon the results were visible, as children were making an effort to speak in English. This small change proved to be the ‘Tipping point’ to the big change that followed, as Gladwell points out that, “behavior is a function of social context…what really matters is little things.” (1990, p. 150).
Changes are always difficult to implement, especially when it concerns the culture of a place. Any kind of change brings along some ‘creative tension’; which, an effective leader transforms into energy for a positive change (Senge, 1990, p. 152), by preparing and helping the organizations cope as they struggle through it (Kotter, 2001, p. 3). A good school leader will have his teachers identify themselves with the vision of the school, and get a buy-in from them, there by seeking their support for a change that he plans to implement. As Senge says, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed” (Senge, 1990, p.155).
Leaders create change when they adapt their message to the beliefs and values of their faculty (Northouse, 2012, p. 208). Change is not something that happens drastically; rather it happens gradually and is facilitated by people such as the connectors, mavens and salesperson who exist within all organizations (Gladwell, 1990). A good school leader recognizes such people in his team and makes them the forerunners of change. By following a sound theory of action and having the faculty support, a change may be difficult but not impossible.
Author: Farha Saulat (Education Specialist, The Hearth Education Advisors)
- Gladwell, M. (2000) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Little Brown and Company.
- Kotter, John. (2001) What Leaders Really Do. Harvard Business Review. (Reprinted from 1990).
- Nanus, B. (1992). Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense of Direction for Your Organization, “Vision the Key to Leadership,” (pp. 3-19 first paragraph); “Properties of a Good Vision,” pp. 21-33, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
- Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage.
- Senge, P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, New York: Doubleday Currency.