In reading Fenwick English and Lisa Ehrich’s book Leading Beautifully: Educational Leadership as Connoiseurship, I was reminded of a current problem with educational leadership. Our current educational leadership discourse is mostly a leadership discourse that gains its truth from business discourses of leadership. It still does that regularly by borrowing from pop leadership books such as those of John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, and Jim Collins. This results in the creation of a school leader who is a technician who goes simply applies the latest “scientific gimmicks” to the school organization. Has anyone stopped to question whether these leadership technologies are really “good” for schools? Is not being a leader of school different from being a leader of an organization whose primary responsibility is to seek short-term profit and success?
The result of this infatuation with business leadership discourse is a school organization enamored with short terms gains and a total dismissal of schools as long-term institutions whose goals are long-term, well-beyond the present. While there might be some disagreement, business leaders are mostly focused on short-term profits, which is what businesses do. They have no choice, because they exist to make money for their owners and/or stockholders.
With this intense fascination with the business leadership literature, we now have school leaders in search of technologies that will bring about quick test score improvements and quick improvement of other educational measures. These are only short term measures and are not proven indicators of the long-term successful lives of our students. Our schools have become places where the short-term matters more than the long term. This leads to a school and school system left ravaged by ambitious “business-minded” school leaders who are sometimes only interested in promoting their careers and who could care less about the longer sustainability of the institution of public education. Once these business-minded leaders have successfully promoted their careers, they move on to the greener pastures to which their ambitions take them.
I think it past time to take a more conoisseur-like focus on educational leadership. Business-thinking works fine for those seeking short-term gains. If one takes what English & Ehrich (2016) call Leadership as a Connoisseurship, then the work of leadership begins with a work that focuses on shaping and molding creatively an organization into a societal instution who is focused not on short-term gains, but on schools whose purpose is to shape individuals. Our schools are often now focused on shaping individuals for the short-term needs of industry and business. This is a mistake. These business and industries have proven time and again when they get a better deal somewhere else, they will move on leaving a hord of unemployed workers behind again searching for work. Instead, a leader as connoisseur focuses on shaping the institution into one that in turn shapes lives for long-term existance on Earth. It’s time to listen less to business discourses of short-term economics and engage in a long-term task of creating human beings that can live in whatever kind of environment they have to exist within.
English, F. & Ehrich, L. (2016). Leading beautifully: Educational leadership as connoiseurship. Routledge: New York, NY.