Turning the Table: Shared Leadership in Schools

Shared leadership sounds like a cool buzzword that has taken the business world by storm.  So why aren’t we seeing more of it in education?

shared leadership image.jpg
Image source: Leadership.lk

Patrick Lencioni (author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Ideal Team Player) would be proud that over the past decade, businesses all across the United States are embracing a shared leadership model.  Shared leadership sounds like a fancy, ultra progressive Google-esque approach to building a thriving culture within a company.  According to the Harvard Business Review, “Shared leadership involves maximizing all of the human resources in an organization by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise.”  This sounds reflective of expectations placed on educators for working with students.  Personalized and differentiated learning to maximize student success and empowerment.  Why not utilize this model with all team members?

One of my colleagues was reminding me of a student from our past years in the classroom.  Though he was two to three years older than the other students in his grade and had an IQ below 80, the student had passed the state standardized assessment for Social Studies.  My friend was able to find what he loved and how he excelled: studying and using maps.  She made the shapes and locations come to life for him and thus, he latched onto any Social Studies content.  Though he read at a very low level, he still passed the 7th grade assessment.

This takes me back to the conversation on shared leadership and why it is vital to moving our education system forward.  Many of our schools still operate within the confines of a hierarchical system of yesteryear.  What does this create?  A culture of fear, intimidation and pressure.  The school leader(s) feel immense pressure that they must know and do everything.  Teachers feel as though they cannot speak up, or worse, that they would get in trouble for speaking up with an idea. There is often a loneliness that accompanies the silos created – a feeling that no matter your role – it is you against the world.  If we are to continue creating school cultures that value and capitalize on every team member’s capacity, it requires a few strategic steps to be taken by school leaders:

  1.  Asset mapping.  Part of mapping out a team’s assets requires deeply knowing your team members.  Trust must be established quickly and genuinely.  The book The 6 Stages of Cultural Mastery is a good place to start.
  2. Shared responsibility.  Shared leadership is not just about delegation.  All stakeholders must understand their specific role and responsibilities in order to achieve the mission, project or initiative.
  3. Shared accountability.  In order to understand if the model is working to gain the highest impact results, accountability is necessary.  Accountability can look like monitoring and feedback as well as correction.  In order to successfully implement a shared leadership model, team members must be held accountable.

This model is often contrary to the traditions of districts and schools.  “We cannot lead people to the highest levels until we know them at the deepest levels,” contends Ricardo Gonzalez, author of The 6 Stages of Cultural Mastery.  I believe the answer to moving many of our schools forward can be found through the value of every person in your district or building.  In order to get to this point, you must deeply know your team members.

It is time to shift to a genuine shared leadership model in our schools.  Whose value have you overlooked, due to title or job description?  The keepers of the solutions to your school’s problem(s) of practice are right in the building.

Justine González is a former elementary and high school turnaround administrator and teacher.  She is the Founder and President of Educator Aide, a company specializing in school transformation through cultural mastery.  Educator Aide is an exclusive partner company to The 6 Stages Group.

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