Showing the way towards growth-minded change culture is about building a cultural mandate. Building a cultural mandate for change begins with helping a community commit itself to the value of its educational future and its educators. How does the school build the mandate of its community to go about a process of change?
It is through our sense of mission that we are most formed in terms of our leadership practice. Our beliefs about what is important and what should be done about these things that drive our compelling narrative, the reason why we do what we do. Our leadership task in this respect is to convince those around us of the worthiness of this purpose. In this respect, we identify with a fundamental purpose for educational leaders of building cultures of excellence in leadership and learning within communities of inquiry. We need to aim to be the very best we can be at leading and learning within a discourse that is built on asking and answering questions.
Contemporary models of leadership emphasise the qualities of humility and will power, as well as an understanding of how to resolve the apparent tension between these two:
What is my value system?
How well do I value those around me?
How well connected am I to my community and its needs?
Am I the servant of my fellows?
The fundamental questions about culture go beyond the leader’s self-reflection to the work of reflecting on the community as a whole. Research findings from PISA and the Grattan Institute suggest three fundamental questions that get to the heart of growth-minded change culture:
We have noted previously the relationship between building character capital and the development of growth-minded change culture; both of these important cultural dimensions operate to increase the quantum of the other. The work of the leader in a school who seeks to build a mandate for the culture work by promoting answers to these questions (and therefore promoting the three types of value that they suggest) is intricately wound up in these dimensions.
It is through our sense of mission that we are most formed in terms of our leadership practice. Our beliefs about what is important and what should be done about these things that drive our compelling narrative, the reason why we do what we do.
But what does the work of the leader who shows the way look like?
Character leadership in practice is inspired by example. We believe that currently, character leaders in schools typically have a clear picture of the challenge of service and the daily character work inherent with this, and that the nature of this work should correspond to how the work of other character educators is located within their schools. Nonetheless, there seems little opportunity for them to reflect on how this work can be situated within a model or series of models that allow for the development of a cogent theory of character leadership. Such modelling at a theoretical level is essential for them to build a consistent, high quality culture of practice in character leadership throughout their school.
Ultimately, the cultures of great schools are built on relationships and the trust and confidence which emerges from them as a result of the culture work of the leader. We might, therefore, to consider a multi-dimensional model of what we do as change leaders:
Change usually works best in schools when it is logical, systematic and incremental. It has to be accompanied, if not foreshadowed, by a clear and compelling rationale that explains how and why a community might move forward without disrespecting its own past. The courage and conviction required to construct this message and convince a school community of its validity and value is an ongoing act of persuasive leadership that becomes in many ways the defining character of school leaders.
To do this well, they need to describe a possible trajectory towards a vision of what the future of the community might become. They must also measure and record the integrity of the shared story of the learning journey of the community in terms of the alignment and attainment of rationale, values, dispositions, actions, behaviours, and impact. Leaders also need to support the members of their school community to transition from a primary focus on operational thinking and response to authentic, transformative, sustainable, and service-oriented leadership that balances the demands of yesterday, today, and tomorrow through proactive planning and implementation. To make this happen, they need to help align strategic intentions with actions and embed them in each organisation’s culture and operations. Their solutions most address the potential gap between intentions for school improvement, and the actions and measures needed to achieve the desired outcomes.
Leaders show the way forwards by doing the culture work: personally, tactically, strategically, and globally.