Leaders are not just born. Leadership can also be developed.
‘Leaders … facilitate positive relationships, welcome diverse voices, and communicate with respect and care for the dignity of each member of the school community’ (Catholic Education Melbourne, Horizons of Hope: Leadership in a Catholic School).
Behavioural theories confirm that people can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation. So it is reasonable to say that leadership is both art and science. Leadership builds on a set of innate capabilities and traits, refined and perfected over time by education, training and experience, with mentoring involved throughout.
With hindsight, we can see that many teachers with innate leadership potential never choose to take on that role. There are several reasons why, but the bottom line is that many teachers lack the self-confidence needed to recognise themselves as leadership material. Sadly, this is particularly the case among our female teachers.
So how does one grow into leadership material?
In the last two years, we re-engineered our leadership development program into a continuous series of leadership initiatives and phases to support teachers throughout their leadership journey.
We call it the ‘Leadership Continuum’.
Teachers don’t have to know if they are made for leading, let alone carry any self-confidence in their leadership capability, but if you guide and nurture them along the way, they’re more likely to put up their hand for the role of principal when the time comes.
Through a comprehensive suite of education, training, experience and mentoring programs, the Leadership Continuum maps a teacher’s career path through seven phases. Since individual development needs vary with experience and context throughout the continuum journey, these phases involve some overlap so are not separate stages.
The seven phases are described as follows:
1. Emerging Leaders
These accomplished teachers are beginning to take on additional leadership responsibilities within the school: developing strategic directions, improving school performance, and deepening their faith formation and leadership capacity.
2. Middle Leaders
These educators are in positions of leadership with a key role in change agency – supporting staff to implement strategic directions. They are accredited to teach in a Catholic school or are working towards accreditation.
3. Established Leaders
These individuals hold a senior position of leadership and have completed accreditation studies. They have the capability to work both independently and collaboratively to initiate and lead key strategic directions within the whole school community.
4. Aspirant Principals
These experienced senior leaders have led teams in significant change projects. They are now ready to pursue principalship as the next step in their professional journey.
5. Initial Principals
In their first principal appointment, they have already proven to be effective Catholic educators and demonstrated capacity to maintain productive relationships with parents, students and colleagues.
6. Experienced Principals
As a principal, they have a high level of experience and expertise in the leadership and management of a Catholic school community. They are looking to reflect upon, and further strengthen, their leadership capabilities and deepen their faith formation.
7. Mentor Principals
These experienced and widely respected leaders of Catholic school communities recognise the collegiate responsibility of supporting other leaders and seek to contribute to their leadership development.
Although there is a higher proportion of female staff in Melbourne Catholic schools, female teachers still need encouragement to put their hand up for leadership positions, with males more willing to apply. As a consequence, females are under-represented in leadership roles, especially as principals in co-ed schools. However, female teachers are much more likely to pursue principalship when they have successfully completed sound leadership development programs.