Collective Capacity

SONY DSCThis fall, I have been doing a great deal of reading about the concept of distributed leadership. The Distributed Leadership Study led by Jim Spillane at Northwestern University’s School of Education & Social Policy Web site has a wealth of resources and information to explore this topic.

In my experience serving in two different states, four different school districts, and seven different schools, I have worked with several principals who have practiced this model. As an educator in these schools (in these cases as a school librarian), I knew that my work “counted.” I was empowered to take risks, make a difference, learn, and contribute to the good of the whole.

Michael Fullan is another scholar and researcher in this area whose work has influenced my thinking. I especially resonate with his idea of “collective capacity” that allows groups of people to accomplish more together than they ever could accomplish working on their own. Fullan says there are two reasons for this. First, “knowledge about effective practice becomes more widely available and accessible on a daily basis” and secondly, “working together generates commitment” (Fullan, 2010, p. 72). I believe this is the promise and the potential of building a culture of collaboration—spreading effective practices and fostering commitment to the success of the enterprise.

Let the migrating wild geese be our guides. It seems like every few years someone publishes their video version of Dr. Robert McNeish’s 1972 story “Lesson from Geese.” At this time of year when many of us are scrambling around to finish up the semester, it may be especially good to pause and reflect on the many benefits we derive from teamwork.  I enjoyed this “(Updated) Lessons from Geese” version from weeblemeister. Take two minutes. Maybe you will, too.

References

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole school reform.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010.

Gabor, Karpati. Geese. Digital Image. Morguefile.com. http://mrg.bz/UJe6zj

Weeblemeister. (2012). (Updated) Lessons from Geese. YouTube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGY9i8iJu94

 

 

This entry was posted in Collaborative Cultures, Leadership and tagged , by Judi Moreillon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi taught preservice school librarians for twenty-one years, most recently as an associate professor at Texas Woman's University where she taught courses in instructional partnerships, multimedia resources and services, children’s literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles.

5 thoughts on “Collective Capacity

  1. This really hit a nerve with me because it is exactly what I am not feeling in my current position. I couldn’t agree more about the need for teamwork. I guess my question is how do we get the school to want to make the librarian an integral part especially when the administration does not see it as such?

    • You post an outstanding question, Lisa. In my experience, there are two ways. One is to practice leadership. Don’t wait to be invited to lead; simply do it. Serve on committees, influence colleagues through coplanning and coteaching, and identify administrators in the district who allow librarians and teachers to be empowered in this way. Encourage them (through their librarians) to share their distributed leadership style and influence other principals. (Books can also help. I highly recommend Dr. Mark Edwards’ book Every Child, Every Day.) If these efforts fail, move on. I have moved on (more than once) when my working environment did not allow me to contribute to my capacity.

  2. This really hit a nerve with me because it is exactly what I am not feeling in my current position. I couldn’t agree more about the need for teamwork. I guess my question is how do we get the school to want to make the librarian an integral part especially when the administration does not see it as such?

    • You post an outstanding question, Lisa. In my experience, there are two ways. One is to practice leadership. Don’t wait to be invited to lead; simply do it. Serve on committees, influence colleagues through coplanning and coteaching, and identify administrators in the district who allow librarians and teachers to be empowered in this way. Encourage them (through their librarians) to share their distributed leadership style and influence other principals. (Books can also help. I highly recommend Dr. Mark Edwards’ book Every Child, Every Day.) If these efforts fail, move on. I have moved on (more than once) when my working environment did not allow me to contribute to my capacity.

  3. I too think that Distributed Leadership is extremely applicable to school librarians Judi! My own research into the school librarian as a leader in technology integration is actually based on Distributed Leadership Theory and also draws a great bit from Fullan as well. And yes I too have worked for principals and seen this in action!

    Distributed leadership places an emphasis upon maximizing expertise of teachers and building capacity within the organization (Spillane et al., 2002) and proposes that it is the task or the problem that determines how leadership is distributed to those who have the knowledge or expertise to contribute to leadership tasks and to the common goal of the organization (Spillane, 2006).

    This type of leadership is particularly appropriate for school librarians due to their knowledge of pedagogical principles, their global perspective on the school curriculum, their training as information experts, and their experience in collaborating with classroom teachers. School librarians have this unique expertise to offer in contributing to school leadership practice.

    Spillane, J. P. (2006). Distributed leadership (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Spillane, J. P., Diamond, J. B., Burch, P., Hallett, T., Jita, L., & Zoltners, J. (2002). Managing in
    the middle: School leaders and the enactment of accountability policy. Educational Policy, 16(5), 731-762. doi:10.1177/089590402237311

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *