my philosophy as an educational leader

 James Petersen

Samuel E Krug writes “What distinguishes effective instructional leaders from others is not a distinctive set of characteristics but an approach to their work that is guided by a distinctive set of beliefs about what is possible.” (Krug, 1992) In addition, I believe that the effective leader must also be guided by a distinctive set of beliefs about himself.

I believe that the foundation of effective leadership is personal integrity. My actions will serve as an example for others and will be based upon honesty, respect and fairness. I will keep my word and will treat people fairly and with respect for diversity and the rights of each individual. I will trust the members of my team to make sound, ethical decisions and I will guide and support them.

I envision my school as a place where students can learn, where teachers can teach, and where everyone is committed to excellence. The parents, teachers, students, staff, the community and administrators are co-owners of the school and must work together to improve the school. How will I make my school an organization that people want to be a part of? How will I motivate the people in my school to share my vision? What is my school for, and who will govern it? How will I lead? All of these are necessary questions to visit and re-visit.

My mission as an administrator is to insure that each child at my school has access to and receives a quality education. I cannot accomplish this mission alone. I believe that parents teachers, students, staff, administrators, community members, district and state educational officers, the legislature, governor, unions, courts, board of education, university trainers, and the federal government have to work together as a team for the good of all the children.

To use Morgan’s idea of metaphor, as School Leader I view myself as team leader, coach, trainer and referee for my school. At times I will actively be involved in decision making, goal setting, school improvement, and change. Other times, I will sit on the sidelines and make recommendations. Sometimes I will put people through their paces to improve their skills. Some of my time will be spent resolving conflicts and enforcing rules. No matter which role I assume, I must always remember that I am working with people, and unlike machines, I cannot predict with absolute certainty what will happen. Schools often have blurred goals, unclear technologies, uncertain outcomes, and fluid participation. I must be flexible.

I am aware that my school is one of many in the district and state. As such, I am a member of the team of the larger organization. As an educational leader, I am assuming a position on the larger team in a bigger league. All the decisions at this level impact my school. Therefore, I need to be an active member of the larger organization.

My school is a part of society and operates in micro and macro environments. The parents, teachers, students, staff, and administrators form the micro environment of my school. All the entities from the local community to the federal government form the macro environment of the school. As school leader, I need to be aware of what is happening in both environments. Decisions or crises that affect the macro environment will eventually affect the school. Problems in the school need to be diagnosed and treated before they become crises.

As School Leader, I am responsible for the smooth running of my school as well as the improvement of my school. I need to be a leader, change agent, decision maker/problem solver, manager, and researcher.


I am accountable for what happens in my school. If I want to fulfill my mission, I must point my school in the direction it needs to go and endeavor to keep it on the right path. My staff, students, and parents must believe in my ability to accomplish the school’s mission and must share the mission.

To have my fellow team members believe in my abilities, I must first be an ethical leader. I believe in leadership that is morally and legally sound and that respects the individuality and self worth of each individual. I must lead by example and never rest on my reputation. I need to demonstrate to my team members that I am committed to the school’s mission. I need to be a role model.

To inspire my team members to share my vision for the school and make it their vision, I must be a motivational leader. I need to spread my enthusiasm and positive attitude to each of my team members. I must be visible and accessible. Communication must flow laterally as well as vertically within the school so that everyone knows what is happening. I need to listen. I need to encourage my team members to set personal and professional goals and challenge them to grow. I need to make them feel that all of us together comprise the team. The school will only win if the team wins.

To keep my school moving forward, I must be an instructional leader. I am committed to excellence in curriculum, instruction, and personnel. I believe a school needs to offer a variety of programs and activities to address the individual interests and needs of a large and diverse group of students. All instructional programs need to be quality programs. Programs need to be evaluated regularly by all involved and changes made where necessary. In a time of scarce resources, we need to weed out that which is ineffectual and nourish success. Professional development will be given high priority. I will encourage teachers to continue learning and growing so they can be models and leaders for their students.

Overall, I need to be a humanistic leader. People will only perform to the best of their abilities if they know you believe in them and care about them. The team defines the school. Without people,  school is only a group of buildings. It is the human factors that give life to the school. To care about the school and its mission is to care about the people who comprise the school.

Change Agent

Leading successful change and improvement involves developing and managing several critical components of schooling including developing a clear, strong, and collectively held educational vision and institutional mission; as an effective school leader I will encourage and support the development of a collaborative school culture, with clear educational missions and processes, structures, and resources that allow educational change to flourish.

I will encourage effective change through a continuing process of renewal that is driven by a commitment to excellence. Meeting new challenges requires the opportunity to take risks and try new ideas. I will guide our team in collaborative planning for school change that reflects the diverse needs of students who face the challenge of a rapidly changing world. I will promote the use of technology as a tool for improving learning, teaching, and school management. I will provide a climate that encourages educators to be leaders in the application of technology in instruction and management.

In order to be effective, schools need to meet the demands of an ever changing society. It is my job to see that the school meets societies’ needs. I need to be aware of what is happening locally, nationally, and internationally and how the events impact on my school. I must communicate the need for change to my team members and enlist their support in the change process. Those who are involved in implementing  change needs to be part of the change process.

I also need to be an objective and reflective observer. I need to stand back, make observations and ask why.  The first step in the change process is to recognize what needs to change and why it needs to change. I need to share my observations with the team and ask for their input.  As a change agent, I need to be open to new ideas and must be willing to change myself. I cannot ask others to change if I cannot change.

For school improvement efforts to be successful, teachers, parents, community and business partners, administrators, and students must share leadership functions. Likewise, the School Leader's role must change from that of a top-down supervisor to a facilitator, architect, instructional leader, coach, and mentor.

Decision Maker/Problem Solver

I believe in shared decision making when applicable. Each team member should be actively engaged in solving the problems that affect the whole school. When decisions are reached by consensus, each member feels his opinion was heard and that the decision reached is a viable one for all concerned. Another facet of the problem solving process is to put in place mechanisms for not only solving the problem but also for changing the structural components of the organization that may have been responsible for the problem in the first place.


I will oversee the budget, student records and school plant. I must submit all necessary reports in a timely manner. While I am ultimately responsible for the overall management of the school, I need to rely on the team to accomplish the school’s goals. I will use collaborative planning to develop sound and efficient budgetary practices. The objective of budgetary planning will be the efficient and effective use of the resources of the school to address the educational and institutional needs identified in the School Improvement Plan. I will work with the community to develop the additional resources to enhance the school’s ability to provide quality educational opportunities.

I believe in strategic planning. We should know what we want to accomplish this year and in five years. Our plan needs to be evaluated and updated regularly, not just when the school comes up for accreditation.

I am committed to a safe, clean, orderly environment that is conducive to learning. Attendance policies, discipline plans, and grading policies will be decided on by the team and enforced by the team. Together, our school will run smoothly.


Research allows me to examine trends in the environment, formulate hypotheses, make predictions, and test my hypotheses. As a researcher, I need to constantly ask why and not be satisfied with the status quo. I need to actively involve my team in the research process. I will base my judgments upon a thorough knowledge of current leadership, curricular and instructional theory and practice as well as an intimate understanding of the school and its people in my role as an Instructional Leader.

An Historical Model for Effective Leadership

At about noon on October 21, 1805, with the smoke and confusion of battle swirling in the thin sunlight off Cape Trafalgar, the fate of a nation stood in the balance. In the final analysis it was the ability of a leader to embody what Peter Senge calls the Five Disciplines: Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, Team Learning, and Systems Thinking. (Senge, 1990) that decided the outcome.

The student of history looks at the lessons of the past to try to make sense of the present. Vice Admiral Horatio  Lord Nelson provides a good example. His professional life was dedicated to a single vision that guided his actions. He had an unshakeable code of personal integrity. He inspired the dovotion and trust of subordinates and the confidence of superiors. He was meticulous in the management of his resources. He considered the welfare of each person in his organization. He issued instructions that were clear, simple and flexible and trusted his team to perform its duty. He demonstrated consumate knowledge of his profession and the courage to follow his beliefs. He used sound planning and creative innovation. He had the “Nelson Touch” He took risks based on knowledge, experience and judgment and he was lucky when it counted.

As Nelson embraced the turmoil and change of battle to forge victory, so must the aspiring educational leader embrace change both in the role of the School Leader and in the nature of the organization of the school itself. In the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic era as in the schools of the last years of the twentieth century, the only constant is change.

my philosophy as an educational leader

As a professional educator, I’m am immersed in the task of providing students with the skills, aptitudes and habits of mind that will allow them to be successful in the world in which they will live and work - the world of the twenty-first century. As an administrator and a school leader, I am aware that a necessary pre-condition for providing a high quality contemporary learning experience for our children is to provide the resources and developmental opportunities to our teaching staff in order that they become effective citizens of the twenty-first century as well.

It is with these thoughts as well as a personal interest in educational technology and broader policy considerations that I began my journey during my sabbatical, in the spring of 2010.

I was recently telling a former student on Facebook, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” But, every journey has to have way-points and direction or it becomes aimless wandering.

My personal intermediate destination includes completing work leading to a doctorate in Educational Technology along with a continued study of educational policy at the local, state, national, and international levels.

my goals as a graduate student in ETEC