Relationship in School Administration

(Article published by All India Association of Catholic Schools, on the 41st National AINACS Convention, 2008.)

1. A Tribute to Principals

 Christian schools and colleges have been pace setters in academic excellence and character formation, precisely because of the Principal’s visionary leadership, unflinching loyalty and commitment. Many outstanding national leaders, scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, industrialists, responsible citizens, and sensitive human beings have been ex- students of Christian schools and colleges. Principals are the leaders who can make a difference in the growth of the institution.

If we work on marble, it will perish;
If we work upon brass, time will efface it;
If we rear temples, they will crumble into dust;
But if we work on immortal souls,
If we imbue them with principles;
With fear of the creator and love of fellow men,
We engrave on those tablets something, which will brighten all eternity.
Hence Henry Adams says, “Teachers affect eternity”.
2. Leaders can make a difference: Leaders Make Things Happen.
As Ralph Nader rightly said,I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” According to John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, you are a leader.”  Leaders make things happen. A visionary leader stands for enhancing and sustaining quality, empowering people and ushering in the required paradigm shift to redefine the vision and mission of the institution and meet the challenges of the times. Institutions flourish or perish depending largely on the leadership qualities of the persons at the helm of affairs 2 Sigma effect of change can be brought about by mentoring and coaching. Words of affirmation and guidance would make the team explore the latent potentials and produce the required synergy to sustain capacity building. Transformational leadership through relationship to achieve the required purpose would be more enduring. Hard skills when compliment with Soft skills can maximize the effectiveness of leadership. Personal integrity and authenticity would enhance trust and credibility. "You be the change you want to see in others", said Mahatma Gandhi. Management of change - of self and others, in a positive and proactive way would make the leadership effective. 
If you just walk into any bookstore you will find hundreds of leadership books purport to answer all questions concerning leadership. Broadly, the research, thinking, and writing about leadership can be divided into two camps. One camp holds that leadership is all about behavior and that if you want to excel, you should learn and replicate the key behaviors of good leaders. Many companies pursue this view by developing competency models and then rigorously assessing and training their leaders accordingly. The other camp holds that leadership is all about character, values, and authenticity; and, companies that adhere to this view focus on transmitting company values and orienting leaders to the right way to do things. Stephen Covey advocates principle centered leadership for effective and sustainable impact.
Leaders who do not succeed tend to be people who lack self-awareness. Daniel Goleman has made this basic truth clear by describing the importance of emotional intelligence as an important component of effective leadership. Ineffective leaders don’t understand their own motivations or acknowledge their weaknesses; they don’t engage in reflection, especially, when they fail and are unwilling to assume accountability. As smart and skilled these people may be, they don’t really know themselves, and this lack of self-knowledge derails them, especially when they face new leadership challenges. High-performing leaders, however, are aware of their strengths and their weaknesses; they talk and think about their limitations and failures and try to learn from them.
It has been said that successful people don’t do extraordinary things but ordinary things in an extraordinary way. That is just true of a successful leader. An effective leader is always a role model and leads by his own example. “A leader's job is to rally people toward a better future”, said Marcus Buckingham.  More than creating followers and sycophants and yes men, the leader’s role is to create more leaders. Hence, the clarion cry is create leaders, not followers.

3. SSS Leadership: Shepherd, Servant and Steward

 In three years time Jesus built his team which could stand and withstand the religious persecution, onslaught of materialism, ever decaying moral standards, and never ending fight to capture power and hedonism that is emptying the vitality of the Church. His was a leadership through relationship and example. It is heartening to read “Jesus CEO” and “Jesus Entrepreneur” written by Laurie Beth Jones which I would recommend to any one who wants to improve his leadership skills based on the leadership style of Jesus.

3.1 Servant Leadership

Jesus said, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not to be the case among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all" (Mark 10:42-44). "Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves" (Luke 22:27). With those brief words, Jesus made a clear distinction between the self-centered leadership of his day and the other-centered leadership that was to characterize His disciples. Jesus taught that true spiritual leaders are servants--first of God, then of His people. That’s a paradoxical and revolutionary concept because normally servants don’t lead and leaders don’t serve. But servant-leaders operate on a spiritual plane, not on a natural plane. Therefore, they must forsake the world’s model of leadership and embrace Christ’s, which places character above function, motives above activities, humility above promotions, faithfulness above success, and others above self.

3.2 Shepherd Leadership

Catholic school Principal could always look up to Jesus the Good Shepherd and learn from him how to care for the lost, least and the last. To include the excluded in all the activities of the school is our aim.  In a globalized world, where human beings are reckoned as machines, we need to follow the leadership style of Jesus who said, “I am the Good Shepherd”. “I have come that you may have life and life in abundance”(Jn10:10). Principals and teachers must assume more of shepherding role than any other role. It is again based on relationship. Psalm 23 would explain to us the depth of shepherding. The book of Ezekiel categorically condemns shepherds of its time who were selfish and self centered, who did not take care of their sheep; and, because of their non-caring attitude the sheep went astray. We need to assume greater responsibility towards our staff and students so that they are taken to pastures fresh and green. We do this happily as St. Peter exhorts his elders of the Church, “Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. (1Pt 5:2-3)

3.3 Steward Leadership

Leadership is stewardship. To some he has given five; to others two and one. (Mt 25:14-30). We are here to multiply our talents. Be accountable for our time and talents; the great opportunity and privilege despite our own weakness. We need to have a sense of faith in the Master who has counted us worthy of this ministry (1Tim 1:12). God has entrusted to us his sons and daughters to assist them in their process of learning and growing. We are there to assist them in their search for meaning in life; come to terms with their own potentials and capabilities; their unique contribution to the society.

4. Leadership through Relationship

“We are born in relation, we live in relation, and we die in relation. There is, literally, no such human place as simply 'inside myself'. Nor is any person, creed, ideology, or movement entirely 'outside myself'”, said Carter Hayward. The ability to cultivate and manage relationships both within and outside the organization is an integral aspect of effective leadership. Forming and maintaining relationship with students, teachers, employees, and suppliers is essential to safe guard the interests of the organization. The ability to network effectively with relevant parties is essential because it maximizes an organization’s chance of capturing new growth opportunities in the future and also enables leaders to learn from others and to gain expertise in new areas. Trying to walk alone in an increasingly competitive academic and business environment is a self-defeating act, particularly, since organizations are increasingly being rated on their innovation and knowledge capabilities.

Academic Leaders who can do Mentoring, Team-building, Motivation, Respect, Appreciate (Appreciate in Public and Correct in Private), Promote Unity in Diversity, Challenge the Process, Empower Teachers’ through in-service training, would become effective leaders.

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are. “And if our words and our actions come from superficial human relations techniques (the Personality Ethic) rather than from our own inner core (the Character Ethic), others will sense that duplicity. We simply won't be able to create and sustain the foundation necessary for effective interdependence.” Stephen R. Covey.  Principals must understand interrelationships of various groups.

5. Centrality of Leadership in Schools

The Principal is the pivot around which the whole administrative system revolves. The teaching, non-teaching staff, students, their parents, the neighborhood, the city and the society at large are influenced by that one person called – Principal. He can make or break the institution. It is said that outstanding schools have effective Principals. They remain focused on the vision and mission of the school. They are able to dream and make the dream come true. Your call is to become a visionary leader of the school. Principals of Catholic schools are inspired by the Spirit of Christ. Christ’s commandment to love God and neighbor inspires a caring ethos which is expressed in relationships within and beyond Catholic schools. Catholic Principals provide a high quality, value added and gospel-led educational experience for all pupils, inspired by the Spirit of Christ. They seek to ennoble and enrich the human person so that each can develop and fulfill his/her potential. Relationship with Christ is the key to effectiveness in educational apostolate. Catholic Principals help the person and message of Christ find expression in all the activities of the school. They help the schools become the light, leaven and salt of the earth. Their academic leadership and moral influence is incomparable. Hence, Catholic schools should have Principals who have a proven record of visionary leadership.

The winners of the twenty-first century will be those who can transform their organizations into something that more resembles a jeep – an all-wheel drive, all terrain vehicles that is lean, mean and highly maneuverable.”  – Peter Drucker. Three conditions distinguish the work of school administrators from that of their colleagues in non-school contexts: the uniquely moral character of schools; a highly educated, autonomous, and permanent workforce; and regular and unpredictable threats to organizational stability. The resultant demand environment requires school administrators to rely more extensively on leadership than routine administration to influence teachers and to negotiate the complex interplay among the five situational imperatives of school administration: moral, instructional, political, managerial, and social.

         There is no denying the fact that leadership has a powerful impact on schools.
         When schools have good leaders, they become leading schools.
         Outstanding schools have effective Principals.
         Effective Principals develop outstanding schools.
         Crisis of leadership.

The message for future School leaders is very clear:

·         Improve quality.
·         Involve in constant learning.
·         Connect and Believe in Synergy.
·         Focus on the processes.
·         End the era of routines.
·         Encourage participation and interactive & team-oriented activities.
·         Paradigm shift: From result oriented to transformation oriented education.
·         Selfish monetary pursuits to building the nation.

5.1 Students: Future Leaders of the Society

The main stake holder of the educational system is students. Without them, schools would remain dead buildings and meaningless structures. Principals make significant contribution in the areas of student’s capacity building, teaching and learning. Interpersonal qualities of Principals showed a common and consistent set of personal traits, behaviors, values and beliefs, such as honesty and openness, highly developed communication skills, flexibility, commitment, passion, empathy with others, a sense of 'innate goodness', support of equity and social justice, a belief that all children are important and can succeed, being other-centred, high expectations and a belief that schools can make a difference. Principal’s relationship with students would be of great significance particularly in today’s context. He could be a connecting link between students belonging to different communities, religions, social status and backgrounds. He could build the mind set of the future citizens on Gospel values. In the context of communal violence and growing hatred towards Christian presence and missionary activity, it is vital that we let our students know who we are and what the main teachings of Christ are. The purpose of education is the healthy interaction between information and formation resulting in transformation of life. More than filling the empty minds with knowledge, we must enable them to develop soft skills, and make them appreciate the good things in life and contribute to make this world a better place to live in. We must develop in them an attitude of gratitude and loyalty, lest they take our institutions as commercial entities. Focus on holistic development. We have introduced what is known as 4H Method (Head, Heart, Hands and Habits) for the integral development of students.

5.1.1 Mentoring: Enhancing Leadership

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction,”
said, John C. Crosby. “If you touch me soft and gentle, if you look at me and smile at me, if you listen to me talk sometimes, before you talk, I will grow, really grow” – Bradley
A good mentor is willing to give the intern real and significant responsibilities, the opportunity to try without risk of reproach, time for constructive feedback and processing of those experiences, and understanding of "inside stories" and thinking that underlie administrative decisions and actions.

5.2 Teachers: Builders of the Nation:

“The quality of a nation depends upon the quality of its citizens. The quality of its citizens depends- not exclusively but in critical measure-upon the quality of their education. The quality of their education depends, more than upon any other single factor, upon the quality of their teacher.” These words of the American Commission on Teacher     Education cannot be over-emphasized. Teachers are the back-bone of our schools. The Principal should build his team and this alone would ensure success. How true it is:
The mistake of a doctor lies buried in a grave.
 The mistake of an engineer lies cremated in bricks.
 The mistake of the lawyer lies in lies. 
 But the mistake of a teacher is reflected on the Nation”

He should focus on the potential of their active collaboration around instructional matters to enhance the quality of teaching and student performance. The analysis is grounded in two conceptions of leadership—transformational and instructional. It is found that transformational leadership is a necessary but insufficient condition for instructional leadership. When transformational and shared instructional leadership coexist in an integrated form of leadership, the influence on school performance, measured by the quality of its pedagogy and the achievement of its students, is substantial. It is said, “Knowledge is the best eraser in the world for disharmony, distrust, despair, and the endless physical deficiencies of man.” We need to empower Teachers through in-service training.

 5.2.1. Team-building:

Principals as Academic Leaders foster collaboration, build spirited teams, and actively involve everyone in academic initiatives. The successful Principal understands that mutual respect makes a successful school, and strives to create an atmosphere of trust and dignity. They enable others by making each person feel capable and more powerful. Effective Principals understand that their staff has to have the freedom to grow and achieve their full potential. Teachers need to know they can be themselves and that diverse points of view are acceptable.
Employees won’t start respecting you until YOU start respecting them” -“Employees won’t start trusting you until YOU start trusting them.” An effective leader must be able to interact with employees, peers, superiors and many other individuals both inside and outside the organization. Leaders must gain the support of many people to meet or exceed established objectives. This means that they must develop or possess a unique understanding of people. The ability to coach mentor and teach leadership skills to others is the driving force that will create a winning organization. Being an effective leader requires the understanding of the principles that govern employee behavior. A leader must be able to attribute success to each team member. He must learn to appreciate in public and correct in Private In any endeavor, there will be milestones; and each milestone can be measured for success. Celebrate these successes. No matter how small an accomplishment, it cannot be too small to be ignored. No task is unworthy. A leader who knows how to draw out the best in his team usually knows how to show appreciation for their efforts. Yet, a good leader also knows that showing appreciation is not limited to successes. There will be many stumbles along the path to success. Yet, each stumble, no matter how painful, still works towards bringing the team that one tiny bit closer to its objectives. Here lies the distinction between a good leader and a truly great leader. Balance the struggles of the team with its triumphs, reward the heart. Allowing even the weakest member to experience appreciation might do nothing for the “bottom line”, but the overall impact on the team is tremendous.
Principals use the leadership practice of encouraging the heart to show appreciation for their teachers and students and create a culture of celebration. A Principal’s praise and show of appreciation is a powerful motivator and helps teachers become creative in their work. Successful Principals create a culture where each staff member believes their accomplishments will be noted, appreciated, and celebrated by the school community

5.3 Parents Compliment School Education:

Parent’s involvement in school education is of great importance for the integral development of the students.  Parents should be part and parcel of the planning and execution of the policies and programmes of the school to elicit active participation of their wards. Parent-teacher association can play a very important role in the holistic development of the students. Hence Principals are responsible for developing strong ties between school and home; parents can try to maintain a positive home environment which is conducive to academic achievement. The important home factors include the following: (1) work habits and daily schedule of the family; (2) available parental guidance, support, and assistance for the child's school and homework; (3) intellectual stimulation; (4) language development; (5) Parents willingness to spend time with children; and (5) parents' academic aspirations and expectations.

5.4 School and Local Community:

The school should cater to the needs of the neighborhood and thus make its existence relevant to the people around the place. Their needs, aspirations and struggles should be part of the school journey. We don’t exist in a vacuum. The Principal of a school is most directly responsible for maintaining the relationship between the school and the community; he or she must develop a strategy for school-community relations, which takes into account the community's values and power hierarchy. School Principals have the opportunity to interact with the community in many ways that may help to develop positive relations. For instance,
·   interpret school programs for the community
·   determine community expectations of the school
·   initiate special publicity campaigns
·   support student publications
·   appraise school community relations
·   work with industry and community image groups
·   determine the community power structure
·   help students and teachers become responsible members of the neighborhood.
5.5.Government Officials: Give To Caesar What Is His Due

The Principal should be a public relations officer with the government officials. Often the Catholic school is the visible face of the Church. And, Principal is its spokesperson, officially appointed by the Church or not. The school would need civil authorities from time to time for it’s existence and growth. We live in an interconnected world. Any time we ignore or show disrespect to a civil authority we are inviting trouble not only for our own institution but also for all our other institutions of ours. It has happened many times that a Principal who is haughty and power hungry would show disrespect through subtle ways and then face back lash of legal complication. In the long run relationship pays.

5.6.Political Leaders: Patriotism

Political parties have become an unavoidable part of our daily life. Like it or not we have to interact with them. Rising above party politics we need to consciously project an image of the school and Church which is never part of any party. Yes, we are always part of the ruling party!!  Christians being a micro minority, we need to realize that we cannot afford to ignore the current party system with all its corrupt practices and power games. Jesus’ word, “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” should be our guiding principle. We are and we must project that we are patriotic and we are celebrating the political and social events of the country. The image of Christians as part of the western influence must be erased by our being rooted in the life and achievements of the country and our countrymen.

5.7  Religious Leaders: Religious Pluralism

India is a land of many religions.  Atrocities against Christians have come to us as a rude shock. Those of us who work in educational institutions must revisit and review our educational apostolate and see where we have faltered ‘or’ fumbled or failed or fallen. To me after twenty five years of being a Principal, I feel we have not made use of our leadership to build bridges with other religions; we have not sufficiently made use of the school assembly, value education classes, parent-teacher meetings and staff meetings to communicate Gospel values, respect for other religions, and concern for the county. In a pluralistic society like ours, we need to be the cementing force between religions, without compromising our deep faith and commitment to Jesus. Educational institutions can play a vital role in promoting inter-religious dialogue which is the need of the hour. From Basic Ecclesial Communities we must branch off to Basic Human Communities, and thus, widen the circle of influence. Let us promote Unity in Diversity.

6. School Administration: Effective and Productive Synergy

What do we mean by A school? Is it a building? An Assembly Line? Results? Activities? Or a Living Organism? School is a network of relationships with its stake holders resulting in effective and productive synergy conducive to the holistic growth of students.

It is important to keep the different Stake Holders focused on Vision and Mission of the School. It is not to keep the status quo. School leaders should develop a clear, educationally-focused vision and a well-defined mission statement, collaborating with school staff and community members to agree on the type of learning, beliefs, and goals that are important. A vision means an image of what the school can and should become. It is deeply embedded in values, hopes, and dreams. A mission statement is more specific and often defines what the school is trying to accomplish and for whom. It can be developed from the vision itself. Goals and objectives are still more specific and concrete; are derived from the vision, and can be used to focus change and improvement efforts.
Leaders should help develop a mission that is centered on student learning. The school’s mission should concentrate on key areas of high- quality student learning. But it also can concentrate on establishing a professional work environment that supports collegiality, improves professional growth, and an understanding of the importance of diversity and equity. Collective visions often grow out of collaboration, teamwork, and empowerment. Many schools broaden this goal by establishing collaborative partnerships with outside agencies that serve students and their families.
The school's vision also can incorporate values and goals related to equity and justice, respect and appreciation for multiculturalism and diversity, and concern for the academic success of all students. These views of the school determine how people spend their time, what problems they solve, and how resources are distributed. Moreover, a clear understanding of the school's vision and mission statement may lead to greater parent and community support. Thus, having a clearly defined and communicated vision supports active improvement and accomplishment. How true, knowing how to do a job is not the key to success... It is more important to know how to work with people.

6.1. Motivation: Key Role of a Principal

There is a story of a mother eagle, which gently coaxed her offspring toward the edge of the nest. Her heart quivered with conflicting emotions as she felt their resistance to her persistent nudging. “Why does the thrill of soaring have to begin with the fear of falling? As in the tradition of the species, her nest was located high upon the shelf of a sheer rock face. Below there was nothing but air to support the wings of each little one. “Is it possible that this time it will not work?” she thought. Despite her fears, the eagle knew it was time. Her parental mission was all but complete. There remained one final
task - the push.
The eagle drew courage from an innate wisdom. Until her children discovered their wings, there was no purpose for their lives. Until they learned how to soar, they would fail to understand the privilege of having been born an eagle. The push was the greatest gift she had to offer. It was her supreme act of love. And so, one by one, she pushed them and they flew. Even the eagles need a push! A Principal is a Catalyst, Motivator, Facilitator and Builder of the Nation.

7. Conclusion: Purpose Driven School

An academic leader builds a “School Climate” that encourages performance. A positive school climate is an environment where learning and achievement can take root and grow. The foundation for a positive school climate rests on the integration of academic and behavioral approaches that address the student as a whole person. Instructional practices teach according to the standards that are culturally relevant. Curriculum and instruction engage students by providing personal meaning to them. Behavior is approached positively, with an emphasis on prevention. There are clear, positive expectations and behavior supports to increase academic achievement. There are systems in place to assure that continuums of strategies are used to match the need of the students. Adults have high expectations and they team effectively with colleagues to help the students achieve at their maximum level. The environment welcomes and values all cultural and racial groups, and staff view difference as strength upon which to build.

Leadership is key in developing a positive school climate. While leadership is clearly not the job of just one person, the Principal must be a key player in guiding, leading, inspiring, and supporting staff and students in establishing relationships where they can work and learn.

Principals as Academic Leaders must have a vision of what they want the institution to accomplish. A clear vision allows the Principal to focus on the most important issues, and prioritize what is essential to the academic development of the institution. They envision the future, creating an ideal image of what their school can become, and enlist others in their effort. They are able to inspire their staff to work and strive for a common goal. It is their personal conviction, confidence and belief in the vision that keeps them focused and sustains them. Twenty Years from Now????  Share the Vision and Ignite the Big Dream.