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Democratic Leadership

15 January, 2016 - 09:14

According to Richard DuFour, retired superintendent of the acclaimed Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, author and consultant, says, today's principals must focus on the future, but remain grounded in today. They must see the big picture, while maintaining a close eye on the details. Principals must be strong leaders who give away power to others. (DuFour, 1999)

    This idea of shared responsibility is also echoed by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). In 2001, the NAESP outlined six key elements that summarize what is expected of tomorrow's principals who are a creator of democratic values in their schools. These principals:

  • Lead their schools in a way that places student and adult learning at the center.
  • Set high expectations and standards for the academic and social development of all students and the performance of adults.
  • Set high expectations and standards for the academic and social development of all students and the performance of adults.
  • Create a culture of continuous learning for adults tied to student learning and other school goals.
  • Use multiple sources of data as tools to assess, identify, and apply instructional improvement.
  • Actively engage the community to create shared responsibility for student and school success.

Therefore, these 21st century pioneers must meet the following demands if they are to promote democratic values and build community schools:

  • Lead through shared vision and values.
  • Enlist faculty in the decision-making process and empower individuals to act.
  • Provide information, training, and parameters for staff to make good decisions. Are results oriented.
  • Concentrate on posing the right questions rather than imposing solutions. (DuFour, 1999)

The principles modeled at schools like Fairview Elementary demonstrate that a culture based on democratic values is developed through reflective leadership practices. Additionally, implementing the democratic values also means that leaders must develop sensitivity towards the value of others in order to give meaning to students, teachers, parents and the community at large. Furthermore, by seeking to understand the values of others, leaders can gather enough information on how they can best utilize a shared decision making process. Hence, by developing an awareness of others, school leaders are able to gauge the influence that certain individuals, groups, and organizations can have on their schools. Therefore, the decision on how to create an environment where schools promote democratic values helps to built students who grow into responsible social and politically aware members of society, which understand the government process and are skilled in community building.