When the word “collaboration” is spoken in a school, it is not always welcomed with open arms. Educators or leaders who have had success or are comfortable working solo may feel they are being encroached on or that their ideas are being invaded. However, when your school community respects each other and acknowledges individual skills and participation, all staff can move forward in a positive environment while also becoming learners. Effective collaborative leadership provides teachers opportunities for improved practices through increased leadership opportunities and a feeling of being valued in a school environment.
The benefits of collaborative leadership
A collaborative leadership culture is more than merely leading a scheduled meeting, sharing lessons, or sitting through common planning-time sessions taking notes. Collaborative leadership requires transparency, honesty, integrity, dependability, accountability, and educators’ commitment to shared goals. A school or district that supports collaborative leadership must be fostered and supported by administration for lasting success.
Collaboration is a mitigating condition for teachers to grow in the profession and to accept and implement change effectively. Having leadership opportunities will provide teachers with workplace relationships that allow them to develop individual potential. When principals or superintendents support collaboration by seeking teacher input in decision making, offer sufficient teacher support, and create a community that fosters collaboration, teachers are more prone to remain in those schools.
How to be a collaborative leader
As a principal for 11 years and a district leader for two years, I define collaborative leadership as the presence of opportunities for shared leadership, educator ownership, and sharing of instructional and pedagogical ideas. Collaboration is a talent and skill developed through humility, patience, and vision.
As Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” My best years as a leader were the years when we had collaborative leadership present in the school.
(Next page: 7 steps to becoming a collaborative leader)