Successful leaders demonstrate leadership behaviors ranging from autocratic decision making to collaborative practices within the organization. Michele Rhee, of the Washington D.C. school district, has demonstrated behaviors on this continuum as she has sought to improve the low performing schools within her large urban district. She has excused ineffective teachers and principals and provided incentives of six figure salaries to highly effective teachers. External forces of the urban school district have included the teacher's union, school board, the mayor, city administrator, and parents. Michelle Rhee's belief that Washington D.C. schools can be improved with effective staff and leadership has caught the attention of the nation (Thomas, Constant, & Wingert, 2008).
Implications for school leaders include the recognition that effective leadership in public schools in the 21st century must include the balance of external forces, leadership behavior, organizational structure, and attitudes, and values and beliefs of organization. Educational leaders of the past have been able to operate within the confines of their own organizational structure using traditional leadership approaches. Successful leaders of today, such as Michelle Rhee, are exemplifying a holistic approach to leading within their organizations. SLT provides a gender inclusive theoretical framework for leaders to develop and cultivate effective 21st century leadership within our schools.
Leading complex educational organizations that produce students ready to compete in a global market requires the expertise of many. Using SLT as a lens to view modernist leadership theory enables one to understand that women can lead effectively without having to behave aggressively or in a masculine manner to be successful. Female administrators are encouraged to take a stand when having to make tough decisions while being mindful of the ripple effects that may result from the decision. Similarly, female administrators are encouraged to utilize a collaborative approach to decision making when possible, never losing sight of the emotional needs of individual members on the team.