Schools have an obligation to deliver quality education continuously. Students and pupils have the right to attend well-performing schools that any state can provide. Educators and school managers have a prerequisite obligation to ensure that they provide such institutions. This concern has made many nations and states deploy various strategies for ensuring that schools are reformed to enhance productive learning. In the US, this has often been done through various policy frameworks such as NCLB (No Child Left Behind). Such an effort suggests that schools can be reformed in a big way by complying with the appropriate policy guidelines.
Even though policy guidelines can enhance the creation of effective schools, the success of such policies in the attainment of the noble goal of education is dependent on the successful implementation of the policies by educators. Educators and managers of schools are the chief agents of reforming the schools. Researchers such as Ronald Barth (1991) provide a demonstration using valid examples that prove how effectiveness of school can be enhanced from within through the deployment of appropriate managerial techniques that are applied in other organizations outside the education sector.
This paper reveals that organizational development theory is applicable in schools to yield the required success in the short and long-term basis. In the process of implementation of such theoretical paradigms, educators and school managers need to develop an appropriate school culture.
Culture acts as the main driver of educational institutions’ success. As policymakers together with reformers insist on the creation of new structures together with emphasizing the necessity of development of more rational assessment techniques to enhance the performance of schools, it is evident in the paper that effective change in any school cannot occur without the creation of an effective cultural support. Based on this theoretical point of argument, the focus of this paper is to identify and analyze a facet of organizational development. The paper also evaluates how the topic will benefit a school directly besides indicating how the author would begin to implement positive change as a school leader.
Validity of Applicability of Organizational Development in Schools
Many management scholars have researched the concept of organizational development. Its main concern is to demonstrate how managerial theories can be applied to satisfy the needs and interests of the organization and people. Bradford and Burke (2005) reckon that theoretical constructs of organizational development are crucial for any organization seeking to gain a long-term success. However, they are more beneficial in situations of organizational change (Bradford & Burke, 2005, p.13).
Schools are one of the institutions, which undergo a process of rapid change. Driving such changes requires compliance to the established standards of operation. These standards are enumerated in the school’s mission, aims, and vision statements. These three aspects define a given school’s culture, which is different from any other school’s culture. Organizational development approaches are implemented within the context of a given school’s peculiar culture.
Culture defines the specific behavior and philosophies of work deployed by a specific school. Organizational development is important in schools in helping to foster performance. According to Bradford and Burke, “Organizational development is a process by which behavioral science knowledge and practices are used to help organizations to achieve greater effectiveness” (2005, p.7). In a school setting, effectiveness is defined by the quality of education as reflected in the performance of students and pupils.
However, it is important to note that the mode of accessing students and pupils is based on performance in exams in many schools as opposed to the ability of students and pupils to apply the knowledge gained in class in the solutions of real life problems. The need to change this approach of performance assessment in schools gives a sound opportunity for application of organizational development theories in schools (Fullan, Miles & Taylor, 2000, p.121).
Organizational development is concerned with the improvement of the capacity of an organization to study its problems and/or respond appropriately to eliminate any hindrances to success. Hence, it is indebted to improve the entire system. In a school setting, a system refers to the institution together with the wider environment constituting the parents, guardians, teachers, students, and the management team.
The goal of organizational development is to transform organizations into institutions of high performance in terms of delivery of value to its stakeholders and other parties with stakes. This implies that the intention of organizational development is to facilitate and ensure satisfaction of all members of an organization (Bradford & Burke, 2005, p.14). Based on these concerns of organizational development, institutions of learning including colleges are principal targets of organizational development together with other theoretical paradigms of enhancing organizational change. Schools are institutions where governance is shared, thus leading to the creation of blurred power relationships in the absence of good and effective leadership (Fullan, Miles & Taylor, 2000, p.121).
To eliminate conflict between different centers of power in schools, the functions of leadership prescribed by organizational development theory are important. Schools, like any other organizations, have different groups of people whose mandates are different. Such groups include managerial, teaching staff, and non-teaching staff. Fullan, Miles, and Taylor (2000) argue, “The roles of each of groups must be clearly defined and communication between groups is essential” (p.123). Competition against resources, which are limited in supply, also exists in schools. The leadership arm of schools has the principal function of addressing these challenges in the effort to align all school stakeholders to the common cultures as postulated in the school’s mission, vision, and mission statements.
From the above discussion of the validity of the applicability of organizational development in school settings, organization development (OD) has multiple benefits when applied to enhance the effectiveness of schools. Bradford and Burke (2005) support this arguments by further asserting, “OD is a powerful approach for applying behavioral science to improving organizational effectiveness and human fulfillment at work” (p.42).
Schools are some of the important institutions of work whose success is dependent on the ability of workers (teachers) to overcome various challenges associated with handling people from diverse backgrounds to ensure that the diversity differences do not influence the performance of schools. Thus, job satisfaction is an important parameter, which influences the performance of teachers. From the organizational development theory, leadership is the main organ in an organization, which creates workers’ motivation through the deployment of appropriate strategies. Motivation is an essential factor determining the commitment of employees to the organizational success.
Organizational development seeks to create a positive relationship between the process, groups, and individuals working in an organization. It embraces “the overall performance of the organization, its effectiveness, structure, and internal/external system impacts” (Bradford & Burke, 2005, p.15). All these aspects are essential factors that determine the success of any organization including result-oriented schools. Organizational development is mainly concerned with organizational performance improvement. According to Bradford and Burke, “organizational performance is multidimensional as it embraces several facets” (2005, p.17).
In general, performance is a function of integration of managerial approaches deployed in an organization with leadership. Organizational performance has collective dimensions. They consist of “processes, measurement, tools, system thinking, theory, structures, and procedures” (Bradford & Burke, 2005, p.19). Other facets of organizational development are communication, building a positive relationship within an organization, culture, teamwork, attitude, and organizational change. Management comprises the hard facet of organization performance while leadership constitutes the soft facet of organizational performance.
Organizational development blends these two facets to yield organizational effectiveness. However, the focus of this paper is on the leadership facet of organizational development and its applicability in school settings in the context of different schools’ cultures.
Application of Leadership Facet of Organizational Development in Schools
Visions, missions, and aims are the key pillars that help in the running of schools. In the effort to attain the targets set by the missions, aims, and visions of a school, leadership as the facet of organizational development cannot be negated. A leader is a “person who plans, controls, directs, and guides other people towards attaining common mutual objectives and goals and leadership has two main components: organizational and personal elements” (Sheppard, 2006, p.335).
According to Lussier and Achua (2004), “…success over time demands knowledge of and commitment to both” (p.31). Leadership influences the relationship between leaders and employees who act as tools for change within an organization, which must reflect shared purpose for interaction of both employees and leaders. In this sense, leaders are transformational agents of change within an organization (Sheppard, 2006, p.326). Therefore, leaders in a school must evaluate various combinations of skills that will ensure cohesion of various groups and sub-groups of people making the school community including the teachers.
Different leadership styles are infective in different schools in different ways depending on the established threads tying all stakeholders in a school. Threads that tie people within an organization comprise the organizational culture. Consequently, the success of the leadership facet of organizational development is dependent on the capacity of the leaders (head teachers and principals) to determine the set of leadership skills available for them to prepare them to lead effectively in the changing circumstances (Bell & Smith, 2010, p.12). Using principals and head teachers as leaders implies followers who include teachers, parents, and students.
The ability of leaders in the school settings to align all followers to the common school culture as spelled out by the mission, aims, and visions of a school is dependent on the establishment of a good fit between the leader and followers. This position underlines the importance of considering followership and leadership theories in the description of the applicability of organizational development in schools. The qualities that describe effective followership are similar to those that describe effective leadership (Atchison, 2003).
The importance of followership theories and leadership theories to school leaders is pegged on the assertion that leadership is linked with followership. By understanding this link, it becomes possible to adopt an appropriate leadership style that leads to the achievement of a school’s mission, vision, and aims. Such a relationship is implied by understanding the actual works of a leader within an organization (Dye, 2010).
Many leadership theories such as participatory and transformational leadership theories contend that leaders serve the principal function of directing and guiding the behavior of various people who must work together in a teamwork environment. For this to happen, Daft (2005) insists, “leaders cannot accomplish goals without the assistance of followers” (p.65). Therefore, followers must embrace and welcome the process of being directed by persons whom they believe are supposed to lead them.
This implies that the existence of a good relationship between school leaders and followers initiates by the creation of a good understanding of the function and purpose of leadership among those who are led. Hence, it is important for school principals and head teachers to understand the mechanism used by followers to accept them as leaders through studying followership theories. This move is important in the sense that it helps leaders to know what to do to ensure that followers obey and respect the directions given by them (Lussier & Achua, 2004).
Approaches deployed by followers to accept other people as leaders are described in an emerging and growing body of leadership literature termed as implicit leadership. This body of knowledge is also referred as leadership categorization theory. Implicit leadership is defined as the “pre-existing assumptions and prototypes about the behavior, traits, and abilities that one’s prototypical leader possesses” (Kedharnath, 2011, p.4). From this school of thought, one becomes an effective leader if the lead parties perceive him or her as a leader. For individuals who are not perceived as leaders, they are likely not to influence or be considered ineffective in their work as those individuals who are accepted as good leaders by the followers.
Kedharnath (2011) contends with this claim by further adding, “a leader must match a follower’s leadership prototype in order to be perceived as a leader” (p.17). Hence, school heads and principals need to understand that their effectiveness is not only a function of how they execute their roles within the school settings but also a function of their acceptability as leaders by those who they lead. In this quest, an understanding of cognitive categorization of their prototype schemas developed by the followers is crucial.
Schemas involve the various forms of cognitive systems for organizations employed by people to encode a range of incoming information. They act as pivotal platforms for comparing incoming and pre-existing stimuli related to people and other physical objects.
This means that the judgment of an individual based on any stimuli is highly influenced by the schemas. Followers possess schemas such that they have the knowledge and anticipation of the manner in which a leader should relate with them for them to comply with his or her guidelines. In this context, Daft (2005) maintains, “people deploy cognitive categorization processes when processing information about leaders” (p.67). This means that principals and school heads need to understand that followers employ schemas that exist within themselves together with the perceptions of their preferred prototype leaders to inseminate information.
Followers compare their managers in an implicit way based on their schematically developed leadership prototypes. This leads to the development of certain perceptions about managers. These perceptions may act in favor or in disfavor of the managers or leaders in question (Daft, 2005).
The challenge of an individual endeavoring to develop a positive reception towards followers as his or her most preferred leader involves creating stimuli that ensure that the followers develop the schema that associates him or her with effective leadership. To resolve this challenge, understanding the relationship between leadership and followership theories is important for all school heads or principals seeking effective ways of getting things done in schools through people who include teachers and students.
Leadership in a school can be studied from the paradigm of what leaders do or the analysis of the leadership activity. Upon studying leadership from the approach of leaders’ actions, Sheppard (2006) observes, “leadership activity is constituted, defined, or constructed in the interaction of leaders, followers, and their situations in the execution of particular leadership tasks” (p.329).
This means that leadership in schools is acted through the interaction of three essential components: situation, followers, and the leader. Since leadership is an action of integration of these three elements, it is not hosted internally within any of the three aspects (Bell & Smith, 2010). This model suggests that the contingency theory of leadership is invalid in school settings. The leader does not choose from a wide variety of leadership styles on the appropriate style to fit a given situation. Rather, followers and the situational needs dictate what has to be done to enhance their cohesion.
Leaders are required to attend different situations in organizations. In school settings, “social cultural context is a constitutive element of leadership practice and integral defining elements of activity” (Fullan, Miles & Taylor, 2000, p.155). This means that leadership can be clearly defined as a facet of organizational development by looking at it from the premise of duties of a leader. In this sense, it is distributed across followers, leadership, and situations calling for leadership. Therefore, any effort to measure the effectiveness of leadership should measure the capacity of the leadership to meet the needs of followers and/or attend to situations proactively, efficiently, and effectively.
In this sense, school leadership involves “identification, acquisition, allocation, coordination, and use of social, material, and cultural resources that are necessary to establish the conditions for the possibility of teaching and learning” (Fullan, Miles & Taylor, 2000, p.160). In this definition, two key players to the success of leadership in enhancing school success and performance emerge. Teaching facet deals with teachers while the learning facet is in the province of students. Hence, leaders in schools play the role of influencing and empowering followers.
Leadership serves various functions in schools. As an organizational development facet, it enhances performance. In this context, school leadership entails “instructing, harnessing, and mobilizing various resources required to support the effort to notice, handle, and live up with the conditions requiring a change in schools” (Deal & Peterson, 2009, p.106). This way, leadership serves the purpose of transforming learning and teaching processes in schools.
This assertion creates confusion between the functions of management and leadership in schools. However, the two aspects are different in the manner in which they enhance the performance. Bass (1990) sets out this difference by claiming, “The essence of organizational leadership is the influential increment over and above mechanical compliance with routine directions of the organization” (p.14). Management deals with the effective and efficient maintenance of the deployed organizational arrangement of success. Based on these distinctions, the issue that emerges is to know what constitutes leadership activities in schools.
Principals and school heads take central roles in the construction of school aims, vision, and mission statement. They are the chief whips in the development of a school culture. They attend to disciplinary measures to correct bad behaviors besides holding stakeholder meetings to pursue and influence the stakeholders’ compliance to the school’s culture. The work of school leaders constitutes micro and macro tasks in which the principal or the school head must display his or her ability to lead people to a desired direction in the future to enhance the performance of his or her school.
Evaluation of the Direct Benefit Leadership on Schools
In school settings, leadership is vital for the success of any organization (Atchison, 2003: Dye, 2010). This suggests that leadership has direct benefits to organizations. Organizational theory considers organizational change one of the most important benefits of leadership. Only organizations, which are capable of changing to meet new demands in the operation environment, are able to have increased performance.
In the school setting, leadership has a benefit since it acts as the carrier of visions. Such visions are developed from the basis of the changes anticipated in the future. For example, in school settings, school leaders are the vision carriers. The visions are guided by norms, assumptions, and the beliefs possessed by leaders (Deal & Peterson, 2009, p.58). Hence, leadership sets the foundation for the success of schools in the short and long-term.
For instance, through effective school leadership, performance is improved from the paradigms of the past success and failure stories. This approach is perhaps beneficial to many schools since future performance endeavors are based on the need to surpass past performance recorded by avoiding repetition of mistakes that led to poor performance in the past. Deal and Peterson (2009) support this benefit of leadership by claiming, “In reality, visions emerge serendipitously from experience” (p.59).
Leaders determine the experiences that have positive and negative effects on the success of an organization. Through the deployment of appropriate leadership techniques, effort is then put to address each of the challenges to enhance the performance of schools. This position suggests a positive correlation between effective leadership and school performance
Leadership inspires followers to work collectively towards achieving specific goals within an organization. Leadership is a school practice that not only influences the followers (teacher and students) but also the leaders in a manner that ensures that a school’s objectives are achieved through change. This means that leadership integrates and intertwines followers and leaders besides influencing organizational objectives, missions, and other organizational stakeholders (Lussier & Achua, 2004).
While leading, followers must be involved. This perhaps reveals why there has been an immense scholarly interest on how leaders in school settings must relate with followers to ensure schools’ success. This interest has translated to a growing body of research, which points to the importance of leadership and followership theories as key ingredients for school leaders to understand. Kouzes and Posner (2007) support this assertion by further claiming that leadership is not a province of one social institution since it can happen at home, within communities, and even in schools (p.56). In all these social institutions, leadership benefits are the same: helping to align people to a common culture. Therefore, incidences of incoherent cultures and cultural conflicts in schools are an indication or measures of ineffectiveness in leadership
Implementing a Positive Change as a School Leader
Implementation of positive changes in schools requires leaders to understand their roles in the organizations in creating organizational change. In fact, according to Kouzes and Posner (2007), leadership is an ingredient of change. In the first step of implementing a positive change, I would consider accomplishing my roles as a school leader through delegation and participation as opposed to control and enforcement of rules and regulations.
This kind of leadership approach is likely to create positive schemas about my capacity to function as a leader in the followers’ cognitions. Although the followers’ theoretical approach emphasizes that followers should be accountable to the manner in which they accomplish their functions of the organization as delegated to them, they will still know that I would appreciate and accept my responsibilities for having delegated the tasks to them.
This strategy is opposed to laissez-faire approach in leadership in which a leader rejects the responsibility of his or her position (Louis, 2006, p.166). By adopting democratic leadership approaches, my followers will act in a manner that ensures that their work receives credits. In the process, as the school leader, I will direct, control, and monitor the process of realization of the school’s aim, mission and vision. The underlying claim is that school leaders cannot achieve a positive change without understanding the roles of followers in the school together with how to ensure that a school culture of participatory leadership and collective action is complied with accordingly.
After preparing the mindsets of all followers to align with the desired leadership, the next step will involve the creation of organizational architectures, norms, culture and artifacts. The basic building block for any organization is its culture. Culture engulfs people having common aims, goals and objectives (Louis, 2006, p.168). With the realization of common goals and objectives in an organization that has people with diverse demographic characteristics, the organizational theory insists that the creation of a common organizational culture that is driven by common aims, objectives, and goals is necessary (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p.37).
As a school leader, I would focus on building positive change through initiation of strategies for changing the school from an institution educating people from diverse backgrounds to an institution having a unique tradition propelled by a positive leadership vision. This leadership requires the establishment of common rituals, institutional commitment to common aims, and purpose together with enhancing collective motivation of all followers, with their cultural and other demographic characteristics notwithstanding (Deal & Peterson, 2009, p.13). This strategy is an effort to reduce valid cultures into one culture that defines my school’s tribe.
Creation of a positive change in a school requires orientation of all stakeholders including the BOG, parents, teachers, and non-teaching staff to the common organizational culture. As the school leader, I would accomplish this task by putting in place strategies for ensuring that these stakeholders put aside their individual interests for the common good of the performance of the school in the effort to build a coherent operational unit. However, this effort is subject to facing challenges. Literature on human resource indicates that people’s motivation has components of diversity together with personalized affiliations ingrained in it (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).
To mitigate this challenge, I would establish stories, which would describe the school’s existence besides featuring how failure to unite under a common culture has influenced the school’s performance in the past. According to Deal and Peterson, failure to create such stories makes “people fragmented…finding refuge in subgroups, bureaucratic routines and minutiae, or toxicity” (2009, p.60). This situation has to be avoided under all costs if positive change is to be created by any school leader.
Lastly, in the effort to create a positive change, as a school leader I would place emphasis on the formation of artifacts and architectures, which make my school distinct from other schools. In this quest, creation of symbols defining my school is important. According to Deal and Peterson, symbols serve the functions of establishing architectural forms that represent school culture (2009. p.33). I would ensure that teachers make up the architectural forms.
Teachers play central roles in ensuring that the culture of a school is shaped accordingly via emphasis on various routines coupled with compliance to established discipline standards based on differing abilities of different teachers to highlight their assertive abilities. These differences define the different artifacts possessed by a school (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p.67). Any effective positive change is aligned with these artifacts and cultural architectures.
Organizations from different industries constantly evaluate their operational environment to determine the necessity of change to meet the emerging organizational needs. In school settings, planned efforts are put in place to ensure that schools continue to register a positive performance through seeking mechanisms of enhancing their efficiency and effectiveness. This effort calls for deployment of various facets of organizational development including management and leadership.
The paper revealed that leadership is an organizational development facet, which can mitigate cultural conflicts when applied in schools by aligning all stakeholders to a common coherent culture defined by a school’s vision, aim, and mission. This case is displayed in practice by subscription of all schools’ stakeholders to common beliefs, assumptions, norms, artifacts, and success. The paper held that effecting positive change through deployment of the organizational development facet of leadership requires leaders to adopt participatory and collaborative approaches to enhancing compliance with the established school culture of performance.
The performance of schools is played out by collective participation of various groups of people whose differences need to be resolved to eliminate conflicts. Consequently, deployment of good leadership styles and skills for leading in a multicultural institution aids schools to benefit directly through improved performance and embracement of change in the present and future.
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