Should Leaders Announce Their Presence With Authority?
Is it possible for school leaders to announce their presence with authority? This year marks the 25th anniversary of the classic movie Bull Durham. While playing for the minor league Durham Bulls, a pitcher with a million dollar arm and a five-cent head shakes off the catcher. The catcher asks the umpire to call time. As the catcher approaches the pitcher’s mound, the young prospect yells, I want to “announce my presence with authority!”
In 2013, some school leaders still try to announce their presence with authority. Titles do not matter as much as they did in the 1980’s. A Superintendent, Curriculum Director, Principal, Counselor, School Secretary, Teacher Leader, Teacher Assistant, or PTA President, can have a positive impact on teaching and learning. Collaboration takes place in law firms, hospitals, business marketing, and the airline industry. It is difficult to find many organizations that do not encourage collaboration. Early in my career, the principal would make announcements and top-down leadership was a sign of a strong principal. Superintendents rarely consulted with teacher leadership teams or parent committees, because the Superintendent called the shots. Recently, I have seen the role of high school department chairs change. For over seventy years, the role of the department chair was to conduct the meetings and provide updates to his or her co-workers. Recently, I have witnessed a transition from department chairs who announce their presence with authority to professional learning communities where teacher teams co-create curriculum, share ideas, practice new strategies, support each other, and cheer for the success of their colleagues.
School leaders can insist on throwing the heat, like Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham. While there is nothing wrong with creative leadership and making decisions as a leader, today’s school leaders need to work with people. Social media has made it possible for school leaders to communicate and collaborate within and across schools. If we desire to support student achievement, it will not matter who has the original idea. Implementing the Common Core, Preparing Students for College and Career Readiness, and Closing Achievement Gaps require teamwork, not a leader who calls the shots. Collaborative Leaders are needed. When you enter your next meeting, leave your title at the door and focus on the goals of the team.