This report will identity a managerial problem as identified by the case of Student T, analyse the circumstances and effects of the problem and will propose a realistic solution with especial reference to management styles and theories.
Student T was a registered student at a college of further education in the UK in her first year. The Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) was not aware of any issues concerning this student and none had been made by the student's previous high school staff.
There were low rates of staffing changes in the college and the leadership was considered to be sympathetic and helpful in style. Each department head was encouraged to help members of staff attain their educational goals (Howe and Mitchell 1974) and this was reflected by the principal who acted in agreement with Bush's argument that, 'school leaders are adults and need to be involved in determining their own learning needs' (2008: 41).
Following the taking of maternity leave, a new member of staff was employed on a fixed term contract. This new member of staff brought to the department, enthusiasm and fresh ideas which the principal considered and supported as appropriate. Fullan observed, 'only principals who are equipped to handle a complex, rapidly changing environment can implement the reforms that lead to sustained improvement in student achievement'(2002: 16).
Heads of faculties were encouraged by the principal to emulate her awareness of the need for balance between the management of a department and the provision of leadership. This relationship was described by Bolman and Deal (1991) when they observed that 'organisations which are over-managed but under-led eventually lose any sense of spirit or purpose . . . The challenges of modern organisations require the objective perspective of the manager as well as the brilliant flashes of vision and commitment that wise leadership provides' (pp xiii-xiv). It is important that principals move further on than providing the occasional flashes of brilliance, as due to the complex nature of the organisation, colleges need to be administered by the effective use of methods of continual improvement. The leadership of the college was one of sharing a vision, as opposed to Bottery's observation that staff can sometimes resemble oxen in that 'they lower their heads to pull the cart instead of raising their heads to look at the road' (1992: 191-199).
Educational leadership provided by the principal and heads of department in the college was strong and demonstrated Kelly's observation that it was 'possibly the most important single determinant of an effective learning environment' (Kelly, 2005: 1). Senior management meetings in the college were regular and well administered. Communication between departments and the senior management team was effective and established and the focus of the heads of department was 'increasingly focused on learning, the central and unique focus of educational organisations' (Bush, 2012: 18). As Van de V and Johnson (2013: 802) argued 'engaged scholarship not only enhances the relevance of research for practice, but also contributes significantly to advancing research knowledge in a given domain'. The principal was aware of this relationship between theory, knowledge and practice and encouraged staff in all aspects of learning.
This arose during one of the optional recreational educational sessions. Although students with special educational needs were known to members of the staff in the college; students with particular problems are not always known, such as diabetics, psychiatric problems and asthmatics. Student T was in fact a controlled epileptic whose condition was only known to her college form tutor. The students had been studying during the day, due to impending examinations and had been involved in fund raising activities in the evenings which involved extra hours activity, some physically strenuous and some not so.
The evening activities placed excessive pressure on Student T, who was eager to please and do well amongst her peers. The lack of sleep and the extra study hours inadvertently placed her at risk of an epileptic seizure. During the course of an energetic dance session run by the new member of staff, Student T suffered such a seizure. Fortunately the supervising member of staff was able to administer first aid and the incident did not have any long lasting consequences.
Several aspects came to light in the course of investigation by the department head in that:
the supervising member of staff was unaware that student T suffered from epilepsy - albeit controlled;
the SENCO did not have any knowledge of the student's condition;
the form tutor did not have any system of reporting this fact to other college staff and had only made a note of it on a spare piece of paper and placed it in the student's records after the course of a parent's evening where the matter had been raised as a matter of casual passing interest;
there was in existence no appropriate form or space on application/entrance forms for the recording of such data;
there was in place a SEN policy document, but it had no mention of how to deal with such an incident;
there was in place a Health and Safety policy document, but it had no mention of how to deal with such a circumstance;
it was only a pure coincidence that the supervising member of staff knew exactly what to do as they had only recently voluntarily completed a first aid course;
the week of fund-raising activities had been a spontaneous response to the need to help victims of a recently occurring natural disaster in Asia and was not a regular fixture.
When presented with these findings, the senior managers at the senior management meeting observed that there was a possible clash of interests in the areas of responsibility, between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the SENCO in that Student T suffered from a physical problem that was exacerbated by excessive educational demands together with social activities combining together to put them at risk. It appears that it was a typical situation in which Hersey and Blanchard (1988) would re-iterate their comment that there is no 'right way to manage', it is each particular situation that needs to be managed correctly. This requires that managers and leaders are flexible in their various approaches and have a variety of techniques and strategies available for their use.
The proposition of contingency theories is that effective leadership requires a style of behaviour that matches the conditions in which it is exercised (Wilson 2008). This means that the capability of the leader to guide is dependent on a range of situational features. One thing depends on other things, for a leader to be effective, there must be an appropriate fit between the leader's behaviour, style, followers and the situation (Lussier and Achua 2004).
They need to select an appropriate strategy which will be dependent on the essence of the task, on the 'maturity' of the individuals who are managed and by their collective and separate ability to embrace the responsibility for the tasks' various aspects. This in turn, depends on their various skills. To follow a developmental pathway as identified by Hersey and Blanchard (1988) using their situational leadership model, could enable the linking of various different management/leadership models and the consideration of various combinations of the two aspects - competence and commitment - in their affects on management/leadership style.
It would be important that the nature of the circumstances was communicated to all staff, together with supporting an agreed change by adjustments to policy documents and in daily practice. House and Mitchell (1974) in describing their four styles of management - supportive, directive, participative, and achievement-orientated, suggested that a characteristic of an effective leader is one that helps their followers achieve their individual goals. This is clearly illustrated by the effective use of the path-goal theory as proposed by House (1971) and is summarised by this diagram:
The achievement of the goal of safety of students combined that of enabling students to achieve their best by considering their work-loads should be possible for the staff, once information had been considerately and carefully disseminated.
Possessing the correct vision of future needs and being skilled enough to empower other individuals to implement and share that particular vision is the mark of a skilled leader. The vision should be inspiring, ethical and meaningful; they need to be effective, communicable, flexible, focused, feasible, desirable and imaginable (Kotter 1995b). Visions should be both quotable and memorable. Vision was seen as a driving force by Senge (1990) and Covey (1992) described it as being 'the true north', providing a 'compass' direction for followers. By aligning and connecting people both emotionally and intellectually to the particular organisation via the motivation, inspiration and commitment created by the vision, the organisation experiences success and growth (Baum et al., 1998).
For change to be successfully implemented through 'an integrative model of leadership', Gill (2003: 312) argued, these 'elements of effective leadership practice - vision, values, strategy, empowerment and motivation and inspiration' need to be explained. It has been considered that effective behavioural and emotional leadership which does not possess valid strategic thinking and vision, 'can be misguided, even dangerous'. Engendering a feeling of importance and urgency to the change, Kotter (1995a) suggested, was a way to successful change.
This case of Student T is an illustration as to the necessity of implementing change in both practises and policies in order to ensure the well-being of the students and staff. Proposals for rectification should be agreed at senior management meetings, passed to heads of departments for discussion amongst faculties and then to the rest of the staff in a general meeting for general approval.
The cognitive perspective views leadership as an intricate form of social problem solving, in which leaders have to solve complex, novel, ill-defined problems in real time and with a range of limitations, such as resources, timeframe, conflicting problems and goals and systems demands (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs & Fleishman, 2000).
It would be preferable to propose areas in need of change and encourage staff members to take ownership of that change by formulating their own solutions. Definite points that need to be discussed should be raised, such as privacy of information and its implications in general, together with on-going staff training such as in basic essential first-aid.
The area of 'overload' of students is more complex as social activities cannot and should not be strictly controlled by teaching staff, however, they have consequences and staff need to be aware of any far reaching, sustained efforts such as fund raising activities and their possible effects on students' well-being. This is a particular issue when examination time approaches and the students are subjected to many other pressures - domestic, financial, transport, peer demands and as in this case, current events and the need for compassionate action. Maybe it could have improved matters if staff had suggested fund raising activities and events took place after the examination period, in order to avoid vulnerable individuals being subjected to excessive pressure. This would call for various skills in organising people, events and time, which Adair (2009) identified as the 'seventh function' (of a group of eight), that a leader will have to manage or do.
There is no doubt that changes are necessary in the college and care needs to be taken to ensure that they are implemented with effort and harmony between different areas and departments in order to ensure that the phenomenon of resistance to change does not hamper swift implementation of the addressing and resolving of this particular issue. A failure to understand that something needs to change together with questioning its value and meaning will inevitably lead to problems with motivation for change (Kubr, 1996). As Gill observed (2003: 308), resistance to change is often a direct result of 'emotional: dislike of imposed change - dislike of surprises'.
It is important, therefore, to ensure that resources such as time, necessary expertise and information, is available to the members of the staff in order that they will be able to take ownership of the decisions and so be more amenable to implementing them during their working days. Experienced leadership with key traits such as those observed by Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) such as drive; leadership motivation; integrity; honesty; self-confidence; cognitive ability and knowledge of the managed area - in this case education, are all required in order to successfully and smoothly enable change in an organisation. As Bush and Bell observed, 'a loosely controlled culture is one with only weak commitment to, or acceptance of, shared beliefs, values and practicesâ€¦'(2002: 81).
Different management styles offer different solutions, but the author considers that an informed combination of management methods provides the best solution. Bush and Coleman argued that, 'competence comprises an appreciation of concepts as well as a penchant for successful action' (2001: 18). It is possible to understand the concept of leadership as an influential process which is based on transparent beliefs and values which lead to the composition of a vision for the establishment. Leaders need to understand and know their various responsibilities as 'role ambiguity is a major cause of stress', Handy and Aitken (1986: 42).
Each of the models of leadership which have been explained during the course of my studies, provide distinctive perspectives on leadership in educational establishments. However, as Sergiovanni (1984: 6) proposed, much 'leadership theory and practice provides a limited view, dwelling excessively on some aspects of leadership to the virtual exclusion of others'. It is important for leaders to have the ability to correctly understand their teachers' needs, to encourage them to share the particular vision and to enable them to be able to create a safe and effective climate throughout the establishment; whilst principals need to both understand and know how to establish the foundation for the creation of an atmosphere which is conducive to development and change.