Recently, I ran across a paper I wrote in the fall of 2006. As part of that paper, I did an informal survey of various professional educators. That survey asked the respondents to rank, in order of importance, a list of leadership qualities.
Here is a copy of the actual survey instrument I used for that paper:
SURVEY OF SCHOOL LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to determine which qualities of an educational leader are most important to teachers.
Directions: Below are descriptions of six qualities normally associated with educational leaders. Please rank each of these six qualities in order of importance to you. Do not put your name on your survey. The results will be reported as a group, not individually.
The six qualities described below are derived from a 1996 report by Jantzi and Leithwood.
- PROVIDES VISION (V): “behavior aimed at identifying new opportunities fro the school leadership team and developing, articulating, and inspiring others with his/her vision of the future.”
- MODELS BEHAVIOR (B): “behavior that sets an example for school leadership team members to follow consistent with the values the leader espouses.”
- FOSTERS COMMITMENT (C): “behavior aimed at promoting cooperation among school leadership team members and assisting them to work together toward common goals.
- PROVIDES INDIVIDUAL SUPPORT (IND): “behavior that indicates respect for school leadership team members and concern about their personal feelings and needs.”
- PROVIDES INTELLECTUAL STIMULATION (INT): “behavior that challenges school leadership team members to reexamine some of the assumptions about their work and rethink how it can be performed.”
- HOLDS HIGH PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS (E): “behavior that demonstrates expectations for excellence, quality, and high performance on the part of the school leadership team.”
Please indicate your order of importance below: PROVIDES VISION (V); MODELS BEHAVIOR (B); FOSTERS COMMITMENT (C); PROVIDES INDIVIDUAL SUPPORT (IND); PROVIDES INTELLECTUAL STIMULATION (INT); HOLDS HIGH PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS (E)
Grade Level: __________ Years in Education: _________ Years at Current School: __________
Here is a summary of the results of that survey from 2006.
- Thirty-eight educational professionals completed the survey.
- Their range of experience in education ran from one to thirty-eight years.
- According to the results, the most important quality for leaders is holding high performance expectations. This quality was ranked most important ten times. It was followed by providing intellectual stimulation (9), providing vision (7), fostering commitment (5), modeling behavior (4), and providing individual support (3).
- If the data is examined using years of educational experience, a different factor emerges as the most important. When we look at the average number of years of education experience associated with factors ranked most important, we see that modeling behavior is most important to the group with the most years in education. This factor was ranked number one with an average of 21.5 years in education. It was followed by providing vision (19.43 years), providing intellectual stimulation (16.22 years), holding high performance expectations (13.8 years), providing individual support (12 years), and fostering commitment (9.8 years). This suggests that the more experience an educator has, the more he or she values modeling behavior above the other factors
- The data can further be broken down into “blocks” of educational experience. By doing so, the survey reveals that years of experience change the quality seen as most important in that leadership. Educators with one to five years of experience chose holding high performance expectations in three out of the nine total responses. Providing vision was not ranked most important in any of those surveys.
- With six to ten years of experience, educators again chose high performance expectations as most important. This factor accounted for four out of ten possible responses.
- Providing individual support was chosen as the most important quality for educators with eleven to fifteen years of experience. There were only four surveys that fell into this category, but this quality was ranked most important two out of those four times. In the four surveys from educators with sixteen to twenty years of experience, providing intellectual stimulation was chosen the most important quality all four times.
- Four surveys were from educators with twenty-one to twenty-five years of experience. Of those four, two indicated providing vision as the most important quality in educational leaders.
- With twenty-six years and more of experience, the factors receiving most important rankings here were modeling behavior, providing vision, providing intellectual stimulation, and holding high performance expectations.
It can be argued that more experienced educators have developed a well-balanced set of expectations for positive leadership and have even experienced first hand what quality is most important in educational leadership. Because of these issues, the more experienced educators would naturally have the most diverse idea about leadership qualities. It can also suggest that more experienced educators understand implementing a variety of leadership qualities will ensure the attention of the widest range of constituents.
As a follow up on that paper, I have placed a similar poll question on The Art of Education (see right hand side of the blog). The poll closes January 1, 2011. I am interested in which quality is voted most important.
Jantzi, D., and Leithwood, K. (1996) Toward an explanation of variation in teachers’ perceptions of transformational school leadership Educational Administration Quarterly, 32(4), 512-538.