Elements of Strategic Leadership

To determine the traits in schools that provide short term effectiveness and long term success, we rely on a model of strategic leadership formulated by Davies, Davies, and Ellison. The model identifies two elements that make up strategic leadership: strategic processes and strategic approaches.

Strategic processes are a force for change in schools. One saying related to leadership and management that’s relevant here is: “how we undertake an activity is as important as what we do to build long-term success.” Therefore, care and attention should be given to the process of building strategic capability, because “process is policy.” This suggests that policy isn’t simply formed and implemented; there is an interaction of processes that create the complete policy. The “how” part of strategic processes consists of four elements that build strategic direction for the school. These elements are conceptualization, involving people, articulation, and implementation.

Conceptualization mainly focuses on reflection, strategic thinking, analysis, and creation of new ways of understanding. The “involving people” part of the strategic process involves encouraging greater participation, leading to higher levels of motivation and strategic skill. The element of articulation brings out the oral, written, and structural means of communication and development of a strategic purpose. The last element of implementing policy involves turning strategy into action, organization, strategic timing and knowing when to quit.

Strategic approaches are how strategies built through strategic processes is put in place. The Davies et al. model focuses on four approaches. First, it considers the most common approach to strategic planning, the pro-active approach., It assumes that the school understands the desired outcomes, and how to go about achieving them. The method in this approach is similar to the school-development and school-improvement movements. However, it differs s from the reactive approach of emergent strategy, which means using current experience to shape future strategy. This is a common practice in circumstances where schools learn by doing.

If the school is a reflective and learning organization, a pattern of success and failure is formed. The school formulates strategy by repeating successful activities, and avoiding those that caused failures. A pattern of actions emerges that, through collaboration, produces a logical strategic framework. Therefore, emerging strategy is a reflective, reactive process that uses experience to predict and improve future patterns of behavior.

The researchers also considered a redistributed strategy as a model of strategic development. This is where senior school leaders determine values and set the direction of the school, but allow other staff to put the policies in place. This strategy only works if values, and a degree of trust, exist among the various players in the school setting. The last approach is strategic intent, which involves achieving noticeable strategic change by building capacity and ability throughout the school community.

This approach sets clear objectives (intents) that the organization is committed to meeting, but recognizes the importance of building capability and capacity first, to fully understand how and when objectives can be achieved.


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