When women are appointed to leadership positons, they enter existing
social groups with established norms, beliefs, and assumptions that
guide interactions and relationships. This process is complex for
all newly appointed leaders, but it is particularly difficult for
those who are different-in ethnicity, race, or gender- from traditional
incumbents in leadership roles.
Over the past three decades women in leadership have been viewed
as anomalies, as deficient with respect to the traditional male
models of leadership (Jones & Montenegro, 1983; Krchniak, 1977;
Lesser, 1978; Paddock, 1981; Valverde, 1974; Valverde, 1974) for
their uniqueness (Fishel & Pottker, 1975; Hemphill, Griffiths
& Fredericksen, 1962), because of the personal and societal
obstacles they have encountered (Darley, 1976; Hennig & Jardim,
1977; Shakeshaft, 1980) and for the contributions they are able
to make when their gender related behaviors are affirmed and valued
(Frasher & Frasher, 1979). Helgeson (1990) has described female
leadership as web-like, dynamic, continuously expanding and contracting.
Female leadership, Helgeson (1990) explained, is highly connective,
deriving its strength from empowering others. Female leadership
then takes on different appearances, different shapes, different
directions as a web in constant redesign.
Rosener (1990) suggested that a woman's leadership orientation
is marked by a concern for community and culture. Characterized
by a disposition toward a democratic culture, women concern themselves
with the importance of establishing relationships and maintaining
connections with others. In a leadership position, women are more
likely to critically examine the past, ask the difficult questions,
promote collective visioning, focus on the development of others,
and to respond with the good of the community at heart (Irwin, 1995).
They practice leadership as a form of inquiry; they are more apt
to foster organizational exploration.
Despite the real potential for organizational learning and constructive
change a woman's model of leadership could foster in our schools,
women continue to struggle as they assume supervisory roles in schools
and districts dominated by the traditional male model of leadership
and professional success.
When women are appointed to leadership positions, they enter existing
social groups with established norms, beliefs, and assumptions that
guide interactions and relationships. School principals, superintendents,
and other educational administrators must take charge and become
functioning, integrated group members at the same time that they
try to understand and accommodate the unwritten norms of the new
group. This process is complex for all newly appointed leaders,
but it is particularly difficult for those who are different- in
ethnicity, race, or gender- from traditional incumbents in leadership
roles (Hart, 1995).
Women often must deal with the fact that their behaviors evoke
confusion and misconceptions among their constituents. Women leaders
who value relationships and who are more relaxed in their leading,
are often perceived as too soft, indecisive, weak, and incompetent.
Others who exhibit an intensity of professionalism are often seen
as too cold, too distant, too perfectionist. Furthermore, when women
leaders' beliefs are incongruent with those of the organization
and community, they are often alienated by others in the organization.
This is exacerbated when the "good old boys" hold the
power, control communication, interpret policy, and set the norms
for success. This is especially problematic to women when success
is normatively defined as managerial efficiency, timely reporting,
an absence of complaints, problems, or phone calls. Women who value
community building, collective visioning, and democracy may experience
feelings of inadequacy and inefficacy in such an organizational
environment (Hart, 1995).
Theoretically, the purpose of this study was to discover the ecological
and psychological transitions women undergo as they consider leaving
the classroom for an administrative position. Though Shakeshaft
(1989) reported that women school principals create and maintain
closer relationships with children, parents, and teachers, and are
perceived to lead more successful schools than do their male counterparts,
many women still hesitate when considering an administrative position.
Their fears center around losing contact with the real business
of schooling, teaching and learning, and becoming too distant and
separated from children. They also worry about their own leadership
dispositions and how the established powers will perceive and interpret
their work (Hackney, 1994). Our research, however, centered around
the perceptions and aspirations of women teachers who have decided
to pursue positional leadership and who anticipate a career move
within the next couple of years. The underlying motive of our research
was to engage this group of eleven women as co-researchers and offer
them opportunities for reflective and projective thinking about
leadership and the roles they will someday assume in hopes that
they would be better prepared to deal with the "existing social
groups with established norm, beliefs, and assumptions" (Hart,
1995) of which they will become a part. The findings of our study
can inform school districts so that they might better understand
and support these new women leaders. The findings can also be instructive
to educational administration preparation programs with respect
to recognizing, affirming, and valuing the leadership models of
women as respectable alternatives to the traditional male model.
But most importantly, the findings personify and validate the theoretical
underpinnings of women's leadership with real women's voices and
We invited nearly 40 women enrolled in the masters, educational
specialist, and doctoral educational administration preparation
programs at a Northeastern Ohio university to become a part of our
study. Eleven women responded and agreed to become co-researchers
with us. The women varied in age (late 20s to mid 50s), in experience
(a few years to over 20 years teaching), in marital status (5 married
with children, 1 married with no children, 3 divorced with children,
2 single/never married).
Developing the Research Questions
Though as researchers we were particularly interested in these
women's conceptions of leadership, we were also interested in what
they wanted to know about themselves as they prepared for a future
administrative position. Our central research question was, "To
feel successful as a school leader, do these women feel they will
need to reconcile their own conceptions of leadership with that
which has been the existing model?" To expand that question,
we invited the participants to a research get-together during which
we conducted a focus group and asked them the following open-ended
- 1) As you prepare for an administrative position and anticipate
leaving your role as a classroom teacher, what would you like
to tell us about?
- 2) What do you want us to ask you about?
We developed the following three sets of additional research questions
from the analysis of the focus group data. The questions directly
reflected that which the women wanted to know about themselves and
guided the design of our interview protocol.
- 1) Why are the women of the study motivated toward school leadership?
- 2) What interpersonal dynamics do the women of the study feel
will impact their effectiveness as school leaders?
- Where do the women of the study envision they will draw their
- Where do they expect to encounter a lack of support?
- 3) How have these women's personal lives affected, or been affected,
by their decisions to pursue and prepare for school leadership?
Data Collection and Analysis
It was important to us that we allow all of these women to speak
openly about their experiences and feelings. We used semi-structured
interviews as the primary data collection tool. Triangulation was
achieved through the analysis of journals the women kept and the
notes from their paired conversations which occurred several times
throughout the course of the study. We analyzed the data using the
Strauss and Corbin (1990) componential model for coding data in
stages: open, axial, and selective coding. Data were initially open
coded using the topics represented by the four research questions.
During the second stage, the axial coding stage, we were able to
reassemble the data in new ways, around the categories which began
to emerge: the women's need for affiliation, their other-centeredness,
and their sense of mission. Each category, or theme, was further
analyzed to uncover the subcategorical themes hidden within.
Selective coding characterized the final stage of data analysis.
This stage permitted the linking of the earlier determined categories
to create stories of causal conditions, strategies, and consequences
for action-oriented construction of grounded theory which will be
reported later in this paper. During the selective coding stage,
our objective was to identify the core phenomenon around which all
the categories were integrated. This involved selection of the core
category, or story line, relating it to the other categories, validating
the relationships, and filling in categories in need of further
refinement (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
Soundness of the Study
The soundness of a qualitative study depends on its credibility,
its reliability, and its transferability. To accurately identify
and describe the transition these women were experiencing as they
anticipated a move from the classroom to an administrative position,
we conducted the interviews in tandem, analyzed the data as a team,
and worked toward agreement in the interpretation of the findings.
We kept field notes, preserved the data on audio-tape and in hard
copy, and verified the data with participants during a culminating
focus group. We do not assume that the findings of this study generalize
to larger populations, but only that they might be instructive about
other similar groups of women contemplating a future in educational
During the axial stage of coding, three dominant themes emerged
from the analysis of the data gathered in this study:
- 1) These women are grounded in the necessity for affiliation.
- 2) These women are other-centered: They prioritize the moral
responsibility for the care of the relationships in their lives.
- 3) These women are on a mission of service: a love of "the
right" and the desire to follow it.
The First Theme: These Women Are Grounded in a Necessity for
Repeatedly, with each participant we heard a focus on the importance
of relationships in their lives. Whether discussing their personal
lives or their "extended families," as Rae so often referred
to her workplace, these women depended on the connections they made
with others. Audrey so powerfully stated the feelings of the group
when she said that "leadership comes from relationships...we
need to stay close to each other."
The women voiced the importance of relationships for theirs and
others' personal and professional security, achievement, celebration,
and consolation. They did not "know how to separate their personal
and professional" lives (Carol). As Bonnie noted, because "women
are bonders," these women spoke consistently throughout their
interviews, paired conversations, and journals of the need for creating
"welcoming organizations" (Rae), where people were available
and accessible to each other, where harmony was cherished, and where
"lots and lots of dialogue" would take place (Carol).
They also voiced the importance of safety nets, shared vulnerability,
and "stewardship" (Wendy), caring for and about people,
and " having each other to care" (Rae) about them. Affiliation
with others, personally and professionally, was integral to their
notions of leadership. Their conceptualizations of leadership were
defined by the importance of the relationships in their lives.
The Second Theme: These Women Are Other-centered; They Prioritize
the Moral Responsibility for the Relationships in Their Lives
Though we have separated out this second theme, it is highly intertwined
with the first theme of affiliation. However, it redirects attention
from the individual's own need for affiliation to a consideration
of the needs of others. It reinforces the notion of affiliation
coupled with the ethic of care and responsibility (Gilligan, 1982;
Noddings, 1984). It explains much of the accommodations these women
have made in their personal and professional lives; it describes
their concern to make sure that families and colleagues are cared
for and comfortable. It reaches from their personal lives and family
responsibilities to their visions of leadership. For these women,
it was more than an isolated act; it was a way of living, a way
Wendy, Rae, Mary, Susan, and Carol spoke extensively of family
responsibilities. All of them deferred academic study and their
pursuit of a leadership position until personal lives permitted
it. Their families came first causing both Wendy and Susan to start
their graduate programs twice, interrupted because of children's
needs and nonsupportive husbands, respectively. Beth quipped that
she was free to pursue her interests as long as there was "food
in the frig and the jeans were clean." But Mary most poignantly
stated, "For years I focused solely on my husband and children.
I'm finally doing what's important to me, satisfying something
Rae, a single, divorced mother of two, worked as a teacher and
a waitress, supported her children, and went to graduate school.
On the verge of collapse, she said "I took a summer off, finally
listening to my body, finally doing what was important for
me." Carol struggled with her husband's lack of understanding.
She stayed up very late at night to do her academic work, to avoid
taking time and attention away from her husband. She said that it
was "difficult to get people to understand just what the drive
is all about." She was a master of accommodation, adjustment,
and compromise who attended to her family responsibilities first
so as to be able to pursue her professional dreams.
Interestingly, even the women of the study who are single or married
without children, referred to the responsibility of caring for families
first, if at some time they were to acquire a husband and/or children.
They knew this would become the most pressing priority.
The theme of accommodation, the other-centeredness, the moral responsibility
for the care of the relationships in their lives, spilled into professional
lives as well. Amy spoke of retaining duties that could be turned
over to someone else not out of a need to control, but out of a
moral responsibility. Her extreme concern about students and school
programming caused her to take on more work than others might think
necessary, burdening herself out of a sense of responsibility to
the children. Audrey spoke of denying herself the opportunity to
apply for a new position in her district, because at that particular
point in time, doing so would damage relationships in the organization
with professional jealousy. She deferred her career progress for
the sake of the others and the good of the school community at large.
When discussing their roles as teacher leaders and aspiring administrators,
the women emphasized the need to "listen and learn from others...to
get a feel for their agendas". They were conscious of "adults
coming (to the school organization) with different feelings and
beliefs, not clean slates" (Wendy) making working together
toward a common goal quite a challenge. Yet, they were intent on
creating a climate in their organization where people would be comfortable
to take some risks and would be able to work and learn together
as part of an "extended family" (Rae).
The Third Theme: These Women Are on a Mission of Service.
"It's not about position. It's not about money. It's about
'This is what I have to do for kids. This is my calling. This is
what I have to do for the world.' Is this a religion? It is!"
(Carol). To the women of the study, leading was, as Carol continued,
a "way of life, a set of beliefs." They repeatedly spoke
of "being in touch with" who they were and what they believed
(Amy). Their mission was expressed in their love and desire to follow
what they believed was "right." Several of the women actually
spoke of "owing something to the world" (Wendy) and "giving
back" what was given to them (Bonnie). It was obvious that
they were operating from an altruistic as opposed to a more instrumental
or self-serving base.
The data reconstructed under this third theme, "The Mission
of Service," arranged itself into three subcategories: grounding
in principles, ethics, morality; the operationalizing of beliefs;
and, the purpose behind the leadership. The first subcategory, grounding
in principles, ethics, and morality was characterized by a strong
belief in stewardship, which was articulated clearly by Wendy as
a "caring for people, places, what will happen and what people
will do" in the school organization. The women cited the importance
of standing up for their beliefs and exerting gentle pressure on
the organization to establish and maintain a culture of goodness,
kindness, respect, trust, and focus on children. Included in their
belief systems was an appreciation for diversity. Wendy spoke of
"honoring differences," others referred to the importance
of validation of ideas which "come from the trenches."
The women of the study believed in the value of the individuals
of the school organization, the children, the parents, the teachers.
Of equal importance was their belief in the organization, its collective
inquiry, its growth, and therefore change for the better. Wendy
spoke of her responsibility of "engaging the minds of children
and adults." They would not compromise their own and others'
learning growth as a way of life in the school. Their beliefs were
dominated by a need for continuous inquiry. Asking the difficult
questions, pressing for answers: What's best for kids? What are
we doing to alter the underlying structures to provide what's best
for kids? Am I doing all I can to make this vision a reality? Do
I have what it takes?
The second subcategory of the third theme provided data which helped
to describe and explain how these women approach the operationalizing
of their beliefs. As Carol noted, "The bottom line for me is
if it's best for kids, then by golly we're going to find a way to
make it happen." As she continued, that might mean continuously
"talking, thinking, dreaming," asking those hard questions,
keeping the vision before them, and providing the guidance, nurturance,
and strength necessary to help people to do their jobs. As Amy stated,
"There's a framework that things fit between, but it doesn't
hurt to nudge that framework."
Operationalizing their beliefs also meant having an "honest
voice..." themselves and encouraging the synergy which comes
from hearing many voices and sharing in many ideas. These women
felt the need for all in the organization to share accountability.
Leadership to them was a joint endeavor; they greatly valued community
participation in decision making and problem solving. Several women
stated that they wanted students, teachers, and parents to
be the source of ideas. Carol said that she had "given up the
idea" that she had "all the answers," feeling now
that she has very few of them. The women felt they would best operationalize
their principles and beliefs about serving children and families
if they could convince all school adults to take the responsibility
to lead by example and to enable and inspire each other. As Rae
reflected, these women wanted to lead by "being human, staying
human", and finding joy in their work. And as Carol shared,
"I lead with love. That is something I always remind myself
The third subcategory under the third theme, the mission of service,
gave direction to these women's conception of leading. The "service"
notion of the theme was illustrated vividly in this category. Their
sense of commitment, dedication, and obligation to "give back"
to the profession was loud and strong:
- I've taken. They trained me so that I could work and become
successful, put myself through college and graduate school. (I
need to) give back to education what it has given to me"
The women spoke of affecting change for the betterment of the school
organization and the education of children, of making a positive
difference in the school, and of having more influence in positional
leadership than they might have as a classroom teacher.
These women were driven by a desire build a spirit of community
in their schools. Becoming role models they felt they influence
the community to take responsibility to "work for the common
good- to work for all of us" (Bonnie). As Cindy noted, and
the others mirrored, "We all own this. It's everybody's school."
They were intent on minimizing their own importance and maximizing
the importance of others. As evidenced by Audrey's decision not
to apply for a new leadership position because it would damage existing,
fragile relationships, these women were not afraid of self-sacrifice
for the common good. Their values extended beyond themselves and
their own achievement. Perhaps Wendy best summarized it: "The
heart and soul of leadership is the development of others' leadership
for the common good."
The Third Theme: Negative Instances
Within this theme we found two negative instances, Cindy and Sally.
Cindy spoke the language of the other women. She referred repeatedly
to the need for participatory management, shared problem solving,
and decision making; yet her motives were much more instrumental
than those of the other women. She believed that "happy workers
make good workers" and help to achieve the goals of the school;
whereas, with the other women the moral "rightness" of
exercising more democratic leadership was more pronounced. Their
first consideration was maintaining a high regard for people and
the morality of more inclusionary democratic practice. Vision development,
goal achievement, and change were more secondary considerations.
Nonetheless, Cindy was centered on children and on "anything
that could help me help the kids." She did not ever want to
"divorce herself from the rest of the group" because all
school adults were "partners in the kids' education."
However, her feelings seemed to be predicated by a desire to help
the business of schooling transpire more smoothly.
It is our interpretation that these results might be explained
by Cindy's extreme intelligence, her youth, and her limited life
and professional experience. A very quick study, in less than a
year Cindy has assimilated into her thinking the more contemporary,
feminist notions of leadership. She is very comfortable with these
conceptions of leadership: they fit well into her own mindscape.
Yet, very young in the profession, she has not had the opportunity
to live and learn, to make mistakes, to alienate others with her
decisions, and to attempt to manage the complexities of dealing
with difficult questions and people. She has known success in her
personal life, her academic career, and now her first teaching position.
It may be that leadership is another endeavor in which she expects
to experience success. Therefore, her methods are more procedural,
her decisions less contextual, and her motivation more instrumental
than those of the other women. Yet, it does seem that Cindy is moving
steadily toward a more constructivist approach to leadership.
Sally, on the other hand, is another, yet different, negative instance.
Sally is a single woman who has been teaching for about ten years.
She grew up in a very well educated, professional family with highly
conservative ideals. As a teacher, she has experienced only a very
traditional, managerial model of leadership. Within her administrative
preparation course work, Sally has struggled with the more contemporary
notions of leadership. A very pleasant and considerate individual,
Sally "likes everyone to get along." She added: "On
a personal level it is upsetting to me when there is not teaming,
not collaboration...the kids suffer." Nevertheless, Sally views
leadership as a responsibility to "win people over, find supporters,
set expectations, be clear and concise, provide the know-how and
the materials...to accomplish the job." As a very caring person,
Sally realizes the need for relationships within the school; yet,
she views those relationships as essential to organizational goal
achievement. Unlike the other women in the group, Sally is more
focused on positional authority. Her concept of leadership is marked
by the provision of "guidance, information, nourishment, strength
to accomplish a goal,the determination of which goals need to be
met,belief in the organization, and...knowing when 'This
is the way it will be done.'"
Sally strongly believes that she "owes something to the world"
and "has an obligation to the profession." Yet, Sally
is less driven by the moral principles of democracy and community
building than she is by the moral responsibility of positional leadership
to get others to do what she considers the right thing to do. She
stated very succinctly, "If that's the way I think it should
be, then that's the way it will be." We would assert that Sally's
very strong, confident personality, coupled with her experiential
exposure to only traditional, male leadership models and her very
conservative personal values contribute to her more hierarchical
conceptions of leadership. Many models of women's leadership exist.
Sally's just happens to be dissimilar to the ones expressed by the
others in the study group.
Though Cindy and Sally are both on missions and exhibit strong
desires to do the right, thing, that which is behind their belief
structures and their behavior is much more influenced by the traditional
measures of success than by those suggested by the other women in
this study. Their more instrumental thinking is characterized by
Sally who says it is important to be "pleasant not because
it is nice...but because it makes people work harder, makes them
do their jobs better. If they are happy, they put out more effort
and make education for kids better."
DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
The final stage of coding, the selective stage, required us to
revisit our research questions with a newfound perspective. Based
upon the interviews we conducted, as well as the paired conversations
notes and journal entries the women submitted, we were able to reconstruct
the data to tell the story of these women in transition from the
classroom to the administrative office. What we discovered among
these women was that they are on a beliefs-centered mission of service
bolstered by their affinity for affiliation and enabled
by their responsibility for, and their accommodation of, others'
Our initial question asked, "To feel successful as school
leaders, do these women feel they will need to reconcile their own
conceptions of leadership with that which has been the existing
model?" In essence, the answer to the question was a resounding
"No!" Yet that "No!" was qualified by the complexity
of context through which the women described their notions of leadership.
What has emerged from our study is a model of feminine leadership
existing in a cyclical state of flux and transition. Our model of
leadership is highly dependent upon, and supported by, the establishment
and maintenance of the relationships in these women's lives; and
it is enabled, or even allowed, by their acceptance of the responsibility
for accommodation of others in their personal and professional lives.
As these women spoke to us about their conceptions of leadership
we did not hear the language common to traditional management paradigm:
unilateral decision-making, positional power, leadership as a technique,
political savvy, and success by getting other to do what "you"
want them to do (Blackmore, 1989). Rather,"true" to their
beliefs, we heard women say that their leadership "takes a
different route, plays a different tune" (Carol). They spoke
the language of commitment, obligation, duty, and responsibility
for the common good of the community.
Several of them even spoke of their transition toward leadership
as the fulfillment of a calling. They were moved by what Regan and
Brooks referred to as their intuition, "the ability to give
equal weight to experience and abstraction, mind and heart"
(1995, p. 33). Leading schools was just something they had to
do. Data verification confirmed that for them leading was their
way of life, their expression of "passion about life"
Central to their notions of leadership were the ethics of care
and responsibility (Gilligan, 1982; Noddings, 1984). Their reference
to caring took on a meaning more akin to Regan and Brooks' definition,
"the translation of moral commitment to action on behalf of
others" (1995, p.27). Repeatedly, these women affirmed their
moral purpose as leaders, centering their efforts and those of others,
on what would best benefit children. Their primary concern was to
foster those conditions in the school which would support their
moral disposition (Sergiovanni, 1990). They were committed to what
is right and determined to see it materialize for children. They
continually asked of themselves and others difficult, often disconcerting
question: Why are we here? What is of greatest value to us? How
can we best serve the needs of those who depend on us? How can we
best affirm each other? How can we help each other develop into
The women of the study were both anxious and excited about assuming
leadership positions. They spoke of their fears of not being able
to stand up for what is right and of their souls and spirits being
crushed in hostile environments (Audrey). Yet, they were not deterred
in their quest for leadership and in the determination that they
could make a positive difference in schools. Audrey quoted Bolman
and Deal to express her emotions: "The wizard says that everyone
is afraid. Courage is the ability to go on anyway" (p. 47).
These women exhibited such courage, impelled by their firm beliefs
to move forward.
Bolstered by Affiliation
Repeatedly, the women of the study expressed the necessity of relationships.
Audrey and Susan, in a paired conversation, agreed that "in
order to risk, to make changes, you must have relationships."
They spoke of affiliation, developing and maintaining relationships,
for the good of the community, to achieve the moral purposes of
the school, and because of a sturdy beliefs in democratic values.
For them, strong affiliation provided the whole community security
through support, a basis for collegiality and achievement of moral
purpose, and a platform for not only celebration but also for consolation.
The women envisioned their leadership diffused through affiliation.
Marked by collaboration, shared problem-solving and decision-making,
"lots and lots of dialogue" (Carol), synergistic collegiality,
and an exchange of vulnerability, their dispositions of leadership
caused them to see themselves and others as "real people, who
have each other to care" about each other and the good of the
community (Rae). They saw leadership in their schools buttressed
by the constructive relationships they sought to create and nurture.
Enabled by Accommodation
To feel free and confident in their ability to lead, these women
needed to care for those people and relationships that they held
dear in their lives. They were continuously conscious of the needs
of those around them. Accommodation was a way of living, a way of
being for them. Whether in reference to caring for family, making
sure children and husbands were provided for, or in reference to
the needs of the many others in their professional lives, these
women felt a keen sense of duty, responsibility, and obligation.
The commitment they brought to leading had its origins in the responsibility
they felt for individuals. Undoubtedly, these women value others
and in no ways see them as means to an end or obstacles to hurdle,
but rather as people to be heard, understood, and accommodated.
Just as they had made sure "the frig was full and the jeans
were clean" (Beth) at home, they wanted to make sure that the
needs of people in the organization were recognized and addressed.
As leaders, they were motivated by a deep and genuine respect for
others. Realizing that "leadership is an unique as the people
who possess it" (Carol), they were intent on listening to others
with caring and empathy, seeking to understand, validating others,
asking questions gently, and speaking softly. As Wendy noted, "honoring
differences" was essential to leading toward harmony and the
common good. These women firmly believed that if they worked collaboratively,
respected differences, and practiced leadership as learners,
they would not experience difficulty "fitting in." Centered
on their beliefs and intent on the moral purposes of the school,
they were convinced that they would facilitate far more enriching
conditions for children and adults in the school by leading with
accommodation, collaboration, and an honest respect for diverse
ideas and opinions. They wanted to lead by enabling others to consider
and contribute alternative, new, and different ways of achieving
the common good and by creating a trusting, respectful, and caring
environment. With respect for those who would offer them little
support, who could make their lives difficult, who might block their
efforts toward moral purposes, they spoke of exerting extra effort,
"stepping out of one's own frame of reference into the other's"
(Noddings, 1984, p. 24). As Rae noted, "The child (and we would
add "adult") who is hardest to love needs your love the
most." And as Maxine Greene has written, these women would
agree that this would mean "becoming a friend of someone else's
mind, with the wonderful power to return to that person a sense
of wholeness" (1995, p. 38). The women of the study embraced
the notion that there must exist in their schools "an active
reciprocity among different people before community can arise"
(Greene, 1995, p. 40). Data verification supported these notions
with a hope that "younger women would not lose the need for
accommodating others" (Mary). Bonnie added, "There is
a beauty in giving of yourself to others."
Leading from the Head and Heart
These women in transition were grounded in their beliefs about
children, about the business of schooling, about the roles and responsibilities
of school adults, and about leading. More than a just a few times,
they spoke of themselves as leaders who were also learners (Barth,
1990). They felt themselves in continuous formation, interdependent
with the flow and flux of the organizational and personal relationship
needs they faced each day. They were journeying, not anticipating
arriving at any predetermined time or place, but responsive to and
supportive of the moral purposes of the community and the recognized
common good. These women were what Greenleaf would have referred
to as a "servant to the community... a leader as a servant
of his followers" (1996, p. 334).
The women of the study were able to reinforce their leadership
dispositions by their need for affiliation- Audrey called it "connectiveness-building"-
and through their beliefs in accommodation. Governed by an ethic
of care and responsibility (Gilligan, 1992; Noddings, 1994), they
were moved by their hearts toward constructiveness and compassion
and stewardship for the people, places, and events in their lives,
personal and professional. Their notions of leadership do not stand
alone; they are defined through their relationships and their commitment
to goodness, to kindness, to trust, to honesty, to what is fundamentally
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
The findings of this study can inform both graduate schools of
educational administration as well as the educational organizations
within which these women, and similar others, may assume leadership
positions as they "argue for a big change" (Cindy). They
suggest that those involved in planning and teaching educational
administration programming, must attend to the overwhelming importance
of relationships in these women's lives. As Bonnie noted, "women
are bonders," and "need to stay close to each other"
(Audrey). Therefore, it would behoove existing programs to consider
structural redesign. Developing cohorts, especially those which
would give women a choice to study only with other women, are one
way to address relational needs. Others ways might include courses
which are more integrated in content, allow students to stay together
and support each other longer than a quarter or a semester, and
offer intensive opportunity for team work and group assignments.
Of equal importance is the recognition, acceptance, and validation
of women's ways of leading in program content, course readings,
and professorial attitude. As the findings have pointed out, women
such as the ones in the study, are not using the language of traditional
management and leadership. Their conceptions of leadership call
for different words, different descriptions, and different determiners
of success. It is imperative that women feel affirmed in their knowledge
and ways of leading, that women's notions and experiences be respected
as valid alternatives to the traditional existing model. Historically,
women have been taught that there is only one leadership knowledge
base, that there is only one way to lead. That must cease so that
women do not suffer discrimination and an absence of support "in
subtle ways" (Beth) from traditional male professors, and other
"people who just don't want this" (Cindy).
The educational organizational, as well, would benefit by acknowledging
the findings of this study. The existing power structures need to
understand women leaders as being grounded in beliefs and experience,
focused on the future, and centered on the common good. Being community-based,
these women would find support in the organization's encouragement
of linkages between and among administrators, teachers, parents,
and students. Moving away from the traditional, administrative management
silos (curriculum and instruction, personnel, facilities, finance)
to toward more integrated teams of leaders would encourage communication,
understanding, empathy, and respect for the varied roles within
the organization and for the various "levels" of responsibility.
By providing for more opportunities for school adults to work together,
to find connection around school goals, and to interface their expertise
the organization would encourage "leadership by affiliation"
(Cindy), a more synergistic environment and more creative solutions
to problems they face.
Because women similar to those in this study are intent on finding
better ways of leading the business of schooling, they have a high
regard for organizational and personal learning and inquiry. Organizational
support for less than traditional measures of success could support
inquiry among the adults in the school and lead to more constructive
and creative problem identification and solution. If the emphasis
on efficiency, organization, management, positional authority, and
unilateral decision-making were replaced by an emphasis on community
building, participatory leadership, collective problem-solving,
collaboration, and hierarchical flattening, women would be assessed
for their strengths and competencies rather than for those "techniques"
to which they find it difficult to relate.
The women of our study are discontent with the educational status
quo and with leadership as it has traditionally existed. They believe
there is a better way and they are committed to practicing it. Though
faced with some fears as they anticipate a move from a place where
they have been comfortable and have met with success, the women
of our study believed that "it is the inspiration and initiative
of individual persons that move the world along" (Greenleaf,
1996, p. 334). They are intent on being one of those individuals.
And for them, that means being firmly planted in their own beliefs,
yet being highly interdependent with others who can share and interpret
those beliefs, and being keenly aware and responsive to the needs
of others in their lives. For them "the bottom line is this:
I will be fine. I will lead with my head and my heart. I will
make a difference wherever I go and I will enjoy doing it!"
(Carol): all for the common good.
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Dr. Catherine Eggleston Hackney teaches in the
College of Education at Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio.
Elaine M. Hogard is a doctoral student in Women's
Studies at Kent State University and is currently writing a dissertation
concerning Women in Leadership / International Studies.
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