Leadership, Design, and Innovation…What does this mean in the 21st century?

Earlier today as I was completing my reading for two of my courses this week (I am attempting to complete my Principal’s certificate coursework while also finishing my second year of doctoral classes)  I came across two articles on democracy, one based in a management framework and the other based in educational leadership–both arguing for the reinvention and reframing of how we think about leading in an ever changing world.

The democratic processes of leadership, which I like to think are deeply embedded in our REAL school framework, are highlighted by Cloke and Goldsmith (2002) who write, “The democratic process asks everyone to enhance their leadership skills in the service of societal, organizational, team, relational and personal improvement.” In order for everyone to develop “leadership skills”, we must recognize the necessity for specific structures that can cultivate this ideal. Additionally, we must recognize the impact and power of collaboration between multiple stakeholders for the improvement of education.

What are the implications for such a structure on the transformation of education systems? What might it mean for a school or a group of schools to strategically insert into its design, within the structures of leadership, the ideal of a community and citizenship of leaders (as put forth by Gary Hamel, 2009) and actually act on it?

By investing all stakeholders in leadership, we hope to create new practices and new uses for old practices. At a time when the term innovation is the buzz word of the day, I am cautious to use it, as I am skeptical that much of what is being deemed innovative really is. Leadership for innovation requires looking beyond the traditional modes of schooling. Hamel (2009) discusses the need to move towards true innovation:

All too often scholars have been content to codify best practice instead of looking beyond it. Practitioners have been more inclined to ask, “Has anybody else done this? rather than “Isn’t this worth trying?”

As we move towards reinvention and reframing of leadership as collaborative, we must also think about what that means in terms of schooling. What does it mean to think about design as a strategic process in which many voices are a part of the conversation and in which we are providing the public educational space with a new way of “mobilizing and organizing human capabilities”? With trust in design, the collaboration of a community and the openness to change, we seek to find out.


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