Educational Leadership and Politics

“Decision and determination are the engineer and fireman of our train to opportunity and success”- Burt Lawlor

In less than one month from the due date of this first case assignment, the nation will attempt to elect is newest president of the United States. It is interesting that we explore the notion of leadership in the field of education at this same moment in history. The same qualities that are outlined by Doyle and Smith concerning the qualities of an effective leader also apply to presidential candidates Kerry, Bush, and Nader. In studying leadership, Doyle and Smith mention character traits, behavior, and theories on contingency and transformation. I have chosen two peer-reviewed research articles, which comply with several opinions offered by Doyle and Smith, as a basis for examining the implications of Classical Models of Leadership in current educational leadership literature.

For Doyle and Smith, leaders are those that influence others. These leaders appear in times of crisis. These leaders are people that possess a clear and consistent idea of what the overall goal is and have the answers as to why the goal is important.

The first model is referred to as “traits”. The definition of a trait is having a distinguishing quality. An effective leader must have traits that make others want to follow them. People that possess leadership traits know what they want. They also know why they want it and know how to communicate what they need in others and from others to succeed.

In 1989, John Gardner described the traits that most leaders possess. They include the following: stamina, intelligence, eagerness, competence, understanding, skill in dealing with others, need for achievement, motivational, courageous, trusting, decisive, confident, assertive, and flexible. Although not every effective leader will be able to master all of Gardner’s traits, it is noteworthy to mention that these traits are also types of behaviors. The second model mentioned by Doyle and Smith is about the behavior needed to be an effective leader.

Behavior is simply how we act. It is also how we react to crisis. For educational leadership, Doyle and Smith mention four main behavior styles. The first is called concern for task, which is when a leader places emphasis on the achievements in hopes of increasing productivity and engaging people to work together. The second is called concern for people, which is when leaders develop a human characteristic by actually caring for the people they lead. The third style is called being a directive leader. A directive leader is someone who expects others to follow his/her instructions. Lastly, the final behavior style is when a leader is considered participatory. A participative leader is one who shares his/her ideas in hopes of allowing others to make decisions.

Doyle and Smith, with the research of Fred E. Fiedler, have determined that an effective leader assesses each situation differently and independent of one another. The biggest distinction is between the control a leader has and the influence a leader has on a situation. The three most important aspects from Fiedler’s argument include: leaders need to have the respect of their followers, the task needs to be clearly defined, and the influence of a leader is dependent upon the power he/she can command.

The final model of leadership is about being a transformational leader. A transformational leader is someone who intends to raise the level of awareness in order to emphasize the importance of the mission. In times of crisis, a transformational leader will enlist these four types of behavior: telling, selling, participating, and delegating. A telling style is when a leader gives direction to his/her followers. A selling style is when the leader encourages his/her followers to “buy into” the goals of the leader. A participating style is made when a leader shares his/her ideas with his/her followers, and a delegating leader is when the leader allows his/her followers to make important decisions on their own. The leader in fact, transfers the responsibility to his/her support group.

The first peer-reviewed document is from “The Press-Enterprise” of Riverside California. In this newspaper article, it mentions the efforts of Linda White. Linda White works for the Home Gardens Elementary School, as it’s principal. As an educational leader, she possesses some of the same qualities needed to be an effective leader. For example, Ms.White expanded partnerships with the community. She sponsored programs that enlisted the local aid of the YMCA and the Kiwanis club. She has some of the traits that Doyle and Smith outlined. Ms. White has the capacity to motivate others, has confidence in her convictions and ideas, and has a certain skill in dealing with others. White is a communicator. She builds and fosters community.

The Home Gardens elementary school was experiencing low testing scores prior to White’s arrival. Additionally, economically disadvantaged families have not been able to afford after-school activities, which White has made more available for them. White is a transformational leader who has the traits of a leader and the behavior that has enabled her to have the support of her followers. The community believes in White. The community has embraced her as a leader for tomorrow. In fact, they have asked her to become the district’s curriculum and instruction director. White is a prime example of Doyle and Smith’s definition of an effective leader in education.

The second peer-reviewed document is from “Kappa Delta Pi Record” of Indianapolis, Indiana. This book review is about John Goodlad’s Education for Everyone: Agenda for Education in a Democracy. The author asserts that the future leaders of the educational tomorrow need to utilize all resources. The leader needs to be a collaborator. The book also addresses the need for planning, preparation, and networking. The emphasis is not on the leader himself/herself, but on the system. The book also makes claims that there needs to be more than one leader. The use of multiple voices produces better results. Additionally, the author mentions that any effective change or leadership needs trust. This book is somewhat of a contrast to Doyle and Smith. However, it does possess many similar qualities. For example, both plans stress the idea of delegation of responsibility. Both also stress the need for trust and collaboration. The strongest contrast is that the author sees educational change and leadership as a process as opposed to a plan.

Doyle and Smith see leadership as a position. The leader must be focused to find answers and solutions. Leaders give direction and have visions. Leaders are set apart from others because they possess specific traits and behaviors, in times of transformation, which are consistent with leaders of the past.


Greene, Paula. Kappa Delta Pi Record. Indianapolis. “Education for Everyone: Agenda
for Education in a Democracy”. Fall 2004. Vol. 41, Iss. 1; pg 46-48.

White, Linda. The Press-Enterprise. Riverside, California. ” Educational Leadership:
Linda White wants to help boost student’s test scores”. Sept. 29, 2004 pg. B.01.

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