Schools play a role of paramount importance in forming the core of students’ personalities and lay the foundation for future professional competencies. Nowadays, there is a tendency toward reconsidering the image of education and implementing quality transformations to ensure the stable development of all system elements. Effective leadership is crucial in such cases, as it ensures proper strategic vision and its correct implementation in practice. At the same time, there are different management styles, and each of them is appropriate in a particular setting. The purpose of this paper is to examine effective leadership strategies within the framework of school transformation and improvement.
Effective Leadership and Management Styles, Attitudes, and Behaviors
The issue of effective strategic leadership serves as an area of intense interest for modern researchers. The 21st century is characterized by its changeable environment in all spheres. Therefore, organizations must adapt accordingly through the implementation of quality changes in their operations, but this process requires an effective approach on behalf of the management. Efficient planning and distribution of resources is a key component in the discussed scenario. A rapidly changing landscape leaves a limited opening for adaptation, which is why organizations must be efficient in their decision-making. In other words, there is not enough time for trying several approaches if the organization wants to retain its position.
Therefore, there must be an effective strategy implemented in such cases, allowing for a clear vision of the future. Leaders play crucial parts in this scenario, as they are the ones in charge of strategic planning, which is why successful adaptation largely depends on them. At the same time, Cote (2017) states that leadership is a reciprocal process, meaning that leaders and followers are integral and interconnected elements of the system. However, the process starts with the management, who must set the strategy to inspire their teams. Sayyadi (2019) states that the economy of the 21st century focuses on knowledge and understanding. In this case, value is created through a person-centric approach, which concentrates on both employees and consumers. Effective leaders are capable of directly influencing this knowledge by their vision and enabling positive transformations (Sayyadi, 2019). This idea highlights the importance of quality management in today’s changeable environment where organizations must demonstrate excellent adaptation capabilities.
The issue in question is not a recent one, even though it has gained additional importance in recent years due to the aforementioned factors. According to Cote (2017), leadership has been in the focus of research for at least five hundred years, and there are 65 classifications and 350 definitions. The understanding of the notion in question may vary depending on the setting, as well as other particular variables. In addition, it is difficult to categorize strategies as correct or inappropriate since the applicability of each theory is different and should correlate with the context. As mentioned earlier, nowadays, there is a tendency toward acknowledging the leading role of human relations in all spheres, which can be referred to as a person-centric model. This paradigm recognizes the value of each person engaged in an organization’s operations and dictates that effective management should be carried out in light of the social context.
This idea corresponds with the social capital theory, which implies that good personal relations are capable of improving the overall performance of an organization. According to Sayyadi (2019), this model encompasses three major aspects. First of all, it highlights the importance of social factors in effective operations described earlier. Additionally, such relations are capable of extending beyond the limits of a single organization, forming stronger external ties. Secondly, social capital is considered to derive from the combined collective efforts of all agents (Sayyadi, 2019). Therefore, effective communication and cooperation are required to achieve meaningful results. Finally, the third aspect adopts “both external and internal approaches and highlights that the relationships between an employee and other people are external to the employee and internal to the firm” (Sayyadi, 2019, p. 32). In other words, social capital is the result of complex interpersonal processes that exist at all levels within and outside an organization.
Generally, this theory corresponds with the modern vision, which emphasizes the importance of personal aspects in all areas. Accordingly, increased attention is devoted to the concept of ethical management, as it promotes a positive atmosphere in the organization. The purpose of this model is to ensure good relations between members of the team, as well as customers or students in the case of educational establishments. As mentioned above, the primary objective of effective leadership in the 21st century is to inspire the followers and have them share the organization’s strategic vision. It is possible through positive, ethical management, which recognizes the importance of each team member and values each one of them as an individual. Cote (2017) refers to the opposite approach as “the darker side of leadership,” adding that it has entailed multiple scandals (p. 54). Therefore, it is important to remain on the “brighter side” to ensure the proper growth and development of the entire organization. This approach includes schools and other educational establishments, considering the crucial role of their social aspect. Respect and mutual recognition must be the basis of all quality transformations.
Effective Leadership and Management Styles, Attitudes, and Behaviors in the Light of Islam
Modern society is characterized by an unprecedented level of diversity. Cultural interchange has permeated all spheres of human activity in the 21st century, which is why organizations must adjust their strategies accordingly. Recognition and respect of cultural differences have become the cornerstone of modern policies implemented by successful companies and institutions. Therefore, effective management policies must be executed in light of the interests of all social groups. Opposite approaches would demonstrate obvious aspects of the dark side of leadership, which makes an organization “susceptible to negative and unethical outcomes” (Cote, 2017, p. 54). As the research by Cote (2017) suggests, effective leaders aim at empowering their followers by respecting their values and worldviews. DeMatthews (2016) states that most programs have failed to accomplish this goal so far. Motivation is an important factor contributing to the organization’s success in periods of change. When people feel recognized, they are more likely to respond positively to new policies, which, in turn, leads to better performance and overall atmosphere. Therefore, effective leadership should be primarily based on the principles of ethics and respect.
This model is particularly crucial in today’s multicultural environment, as it promotes inclusion and equality, and it gains additional relevance in the context of Islam. Liebert et al. (2020) state that the integration of Muslim communities into society has become a matter of increasing importance in the Western world. Muslim people amount to large social groups in the majority of developed countries, and the numbers keep growing as migration rates increase (Liebert et al., 2020). Representatives of these communities are present in many areas of business and studies, which is why effective management policies must be executed in light of their interests. Faris and Abdalla (2017) write that Islamic leadership places additional value on the cardinal virtues, or “ummahat al-fada’il” (p. 9). Accordingly, such important elements as moral courage, sincerity, trust, and kindness become crucial in the case of effective leadership in Islam. The aforementioned virtues ensure the image of proper leadership, promoting mutual trust and effective communication between all members of the system. However, it is important to demonstrate them through meaningful actions so that they are implemented in practice.
The Significance of Effective Leadership and Management for School Improvement
The schooling system is vital for the continuous development of any community, as well as society in general. The world is undergoing major transformations in the 21st century following the increase in globalization processes and technological progress. Schools, being an integral component of society, must ensure their development at a similar pace. Moreover, the nature of this growth must remain positive and effective. As mentioned above, today’s changeable environment does not leave enough room for ineffective actions, which is particularly important in the case of education. Schools and other institutions work directly with students who will later determine the course for the future development of society. Previous systems may be poorly adjusted to the new reality, and quality in-depth transformations are required. Effective management enables positive changes, and this idea encompasses schools as well. Furthermore, previously described principles remain relevant in this setting, but it is important to consider all particular variables present in the educational environment.
As far as effective leadership is concerned, it is implemented in schools by principals. Murakami (2019) states that the main objective of educational leaders is to “align structures and peoples’ needs to effectively develop schools” (p. 359). Effective management in this scenario consists of providing all participants of the learning process with a comfortable environment, promoting efficiency and productivity. The list of participants includes both teachers and students, as well as parents and additional personnel engaged in the school’s operations. The comfortable environment mentioned earlier is supposed to create favorable conditions for developing students’ skills and professional competencies while having them share the principle values of the 21st century. However, effective management models suggest that the leader should be the one to set the role model for their followers. In other words, if the purpose is to make students understand the primary values, the first step would be to ensure that they are appreciated at the highest level. Students go to schools to learn, which also includes extracurricular aspects.
Overall, truly effective leadership must encompass all aspects of the process. Murakami (2019) highlights the significance of the humanistic side of school transformation. According to her research, it is vital to “generate culturally-relevant agency among teachers and leaders” (Murakami, 2019, p. 359). This idea corresponds with the general necessity of culturally aware practices described in the previous section. In the case of Muslim students and teachers, the schooling process must be effectively reorganized to be more considerate of their views. This principle extends beyond Islam as the 21st-century school should become a safe, inclusive environment where everyone’s background is recognized and respected. Despite positive changes toward that situation in recent years, there is room for improvement remains. For the changes to be profound and positive, effective leadership strategies must be implemented.
Issues in Leadership and Management Principals Face When Working for School Improvement
On the other hand, any kind of transformation may prove to be a challenging task. In the cases of systems, which have existed for a long time, a profound transformation may be hard to implement. Furthermore, the process can take a substantial amount of time, and it is easy to make the wrong decision. Accordingly, such periods become the decisive point for managers, whose decisions may either lead to quality improvement or entail severe complications. As for school improvement, Murakami (2019) states that “transformational leadership is not only demonstrated through change concepts but also through the distributed and collaborative effort to transform” (p. 360). Spoken differently, the principal’s task is not only to set the right vision but also to inspire teachers and students. This necessity may pose additional challenges due to the general diversity of communities. The research presented by Murakami (2019) further underlines the crucial role of program cohesion and fidelity in this context. Therefore, to remain effective leaders, principals would have to show a certain degree of flexibility, which would allow them to share their vision with others.
Effective managers are capable of consolidating diverse teams and leading them to excellent results. Teachers form the core of the schooling system, which is why they should remain the vanguard of positive transformations. In other words, if a principal wants to shape a positive image of the 21st-century school, they must ensure that teachers are capable of playing their role in this scenario. Murakami (2019) states that the latter is usually assessed in terms of their students’ results, while their suitability for such an important position often remains unexamined. Therefore, principals face the issue of evaluating the suitability of their teachers. Indeed, while an effective leader must be able to share their vision with followers, the latter should also be susceptible to new strategies. Even the best leaders cannot influence every single person, and principals need to objectively evaluate their teams. If some members are not willing to adapt or change, it may impede the whole process. Therefore, such aspects must be considered, even if the evaluation may entail difficult and unpopular decisions on behalf of principals.
The world remains in the process of perpetual and continuous transformation, which is why schools need to react promptly. Having considered the fundamental principles of effective leadership in modern society, it is possible to propose several practical measures that can be used to improve the schooling experience for all participants of the process. First of all, educational leaders must realize that, in today’s setting, they are managers of highly important organizations. Therefore, the relevant techniques used in the corporate environment can and must be considered. Nevertheless, it is important to remain considerate at every stage instead of blindly implementing successful models. Despite obvious similarities between schools and other organizations, there are objective differences as well. The primary difference consists of the educational role of such an institution. Schools work not with independent customers, but with students, including young children. Values and principles shared at this point are bound to have a significant impact on students’ future lives, which is why modern programs and curricula must be devised with particular attention.
Secondly, there must be practical actions toward making schools meet students’ and parents’ expectations. The first step would include comprehensive research of the aforementioned people aiming at discerning their views of the process. The research can be conducted in several forms, including an anonymous survey, but it must take into account such variables as the students’ cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Having processed the results, principals will be able to see the strong and weak points of their schools. At this point, it is important to implement the key aspects of effective leadership to create a quality transformation program that would consider the interests of all groups. Having set the vision for positive changes, principals will first have to share it with their teachers, who will be the mediators between management and students in the context of the new policy. An in-depth analysis of teacher suitability is required at this point to identify the weakest links of the team.
In conclusion, the principles of effective management have emerged in response to the modern tendencies of a globalized society. While they may vary in particularities, the majority of successful models share similar core values. Effective management promotes respect and equality toward all people, recognizing them as the most valuable elements of all systems. These principles remain relevant in the schooling environment while gaining additional importance due to the crucial role of education. Effective principals must adequately assess the present circumstances and adjust the processes to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. This way, schools will become an inclusive environment suitable for today’s diverse society.
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