When one hears the two-syllable word “culture” in education, it can be a very hot topic that causes a lot of conversation. A positive school culture is one that fosters students and staff ability to learn and work. Therefore, it is necessary to examine leadership styles and organizational influences on how they can impact school culture. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the servant leadership style and the facilitative leadership theory can be utilized to create a positive school culture wherein students and staff are excited to learn and work.
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To improve the experiences of both school staff and students, school leaders can benefit from the advancements of modern leadership studies and implement ready-made solutions from research into practice. The first approach to leading others that possesses significant potential in school contexts is the so-called servant leadership style. The basic characteristics of the style in question were first formulated by Greenleaf a few decades ago (Green, 2017).
Unlike other ways of leading, servant leadership, as is clear from the term, involves attaching different values to the needs of the leader and followers (Green, 2017). According to the basic assumption associated with it, by “holding followers in high regard,” the leader minimizes the need for authoritative power (Green, 2017, p. 86). Using servant leadership, a person is expected to prioritize followers’ needs over his or her own aspirations and make an effort to win the team’s trust.
Servant leadership can help to build a positive school culture due to its numerous advantages. It can make positive contributions to internal culture since its use requires the leader to stay committed to followers’ interests and protect the school’s values when making decisions (Green, 2017). Moreover, servant leaders keep track of changes in their followers’ perceptions of work and conduct regular needs assessments (Green, 2017). It helps them to stay aware of any problems that can cause disruptions in the school’s work and solve them in a timely manner.
In their work, educational leaders can also rely on the central tenets of the facilitative leadership theory to support the development of positive school cultures. The theory being discussed emphasizes the need for the people-centered process of culture formation, including “the development of collaborative teams” that provide all stakeholders with an opportunity to make an impact (Green, 2017, p. 117). Organizational hierarchies are not destroyed due to the theory’s implementation, but followers gain more freedom to “initiate tasks” and encourage their colleagues to participate in some activities (Green, 2017, p. 117).
The use of facilitative leadership is impossible without trust-based relationships between leaders and their teams. Importantly, traditional leaders “identify tasks and make assignments,” whereas facilitative leaders acquire power through “mutuality and synergy” (Green, 2017, p. 117). The focus on collaboration across different power structure levels can be called the key similarity between facilitative and servant leadership. Since they involve considering different stakeholders’ needs and work improvement plans, both perspectives can make staff and students feel valued, thus creating a positive workplace climate and improving the educational institution’s social image.
Despite minor differences between them, the servant leadership style and the theory of facilitative leadership are not in conflict, and it is possible to practice them simultaneously. Judging from my personal experience, facilitative leadership will work properly if a team consists of people who demonstrate responsible attitudes to work and are unlikely to abuse others’ generosity for personal gain.
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I was a part of such a team led by an experienced education administrator utilizing the servant leadership style. That person’s values were quite explicit, and she avoided making significant policy decisions without giving the staff an opportunity to raise any concerns and articulate their own needs. Despite being busy with various tasks, she always managed to find some time to analyze the circumstances of all changes, and the school staff respected her for her commitment to principles.
Unfortunately, the cases of school leaders who fail to facilitate the development of positive school cultures are also rather common. As an example, one of my best friends temporarily works in a private school as a substitute teacher. Due to multiple disciplinary problems involving teenagers, the school principal required her to develop a new discipline action plan even though she did not have enough experience with students from that age group. As other teachers told her later, that educational leader preferred making unilateral decisions and always created the atmosphere of competition.
It is clear that facilitative leadership can prevent multiple mistakes in similar cases. As an example, instead of assigning people with tasks that are entirely new to them, good leaders can present problems and let some staff members “share accountability for goal attainment” (Green, 2017, p. 117). Using this strategy, it is possible to facilitate the process of knowledge sharing and make sure that new employees will learn from their colleagues’ experiences. Thus, among particular areas for improvement that I will consider, there are the use of facilitative leadership and consistency as the key to winning trust.
To sum it up, the servant leadership style and the theory of facilitative leadership positively impact school cultures by making stakeholders feel appreciated and welcome to share their suggestions. Effective leaders emphasize the needs of their followers and are always interested in implementing changes that improve people’s performance without decreasing their motivation to learn and stay successful. Moreover, to create a positive culture, educational leaders can encourage staff members’ participation in decision-making and task distribution, thus helping people to realize their full potential.
Green, R. L. (2017). Practicing the art of leadership: A problem-based approach to implementing the professional standards for educational leaders (5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.