Leadership and Learning Communities


Leadership has attracted the massive attention of various scholars around the world. According to Huy (2002), a number of theories of leadership have been put forth by various scholars. Leadership is one of the most important factors that always dictate the success or failure of an organization in the world today. Leadership has been in existence for as long as the history of humankind can be traced. As Adrianna and Lester (2009) put it, leadership goes beyond providing direction to followers. It entails going into details to discover the potential of the followers. It involves engaging the followers in a way that would make them discover themselves. It involves helping followers develop the urge to achieve. It is the art of making people realize that they have the potential to achieve beyond their current capacity. Leadership requires a leader to challenge the followers positively in a way that would make them feel that they need to rediscover themselves.

According to Maak (2007), the current education communities have become very challenging. This scholar defines a community as a setting that involves various members each with a specific duty to play. A learning community basically involves the learners, teachers, parents, the administration, the government, and all other relevant stakeholders. All these people come together to form a learning community that will ensure that all educational objectives are achieved as per the expectations of society. However, there are a number of challenges that always bedevil this learning society making it slug in the achievement of its objectives. One of the main reasons that always affect the normal running of the school is a negative attitude. As a community, various stakeholders come with different opinions and attitudes. Once an individual realizes that the approach taken by management is different from his preferred approach, then such an individual will develop a feeling that he is not part of the system and will, therefore, start behaving as such. All these challenges are always presented to the leaders of educational communities to deal with. It is, therefore, important to come up with leadership models that would enable leaders to be in a position to meet these challenges in the school communities. This research paper focuses on leadership in learning communities in the contemporary world.

Relevance of Leadership in Community Building

Transformational leadership is defined by Maak and Pless (2006) as a type of leadership that uses motivation to enhance the performance of followers. Pielstick (1998) defines leadership as a process where an individual (a leader) offers guidance to a group of individuals (followers) in an organizational structure. Leadership is one of the most important factors in any organization. Leadership and management share a number of attributes, but they differ on various fronts. Transformational leadership, as the name suggests, provides a completely new path to approaching various issues in an organization. It provides an insight to the followers (Nahavandi, 2011). One of the main aims of a transformational leader is to create a completely new approach to managing various issues within the organization. This is what the current world demands of a learning institution.

Emerging technologies are changing various approaches of management in these institutions. The emerging trends need new approaches that can be used to provide a way in which they can be managed differently. According to Biswas (2011), transformational leadership will be important in learning communities when it comes to influencing the stakeholders. It will help in ensuring that all the members of this community appreciate the need to work as a team. This scholar says that this type of leadership offers the correct approach to community building within learning communities. It helps create an impression that everyone has the responsibility to take care of each other within the community. It enables management to influence all the stakeholders to develop the feeling that in the society, all partners should pull together without any form of antagonism, and without developing a negative attitude towards team spirit.

Transformational leadership attempts to make followers discover themselves. According to York-Barr and Duke (2004), a transformational leader will always make followers realize that they have an untapped capacity that they can exploit to get better results in every activity they are doing. This is the exact description of the management learning communities should follow. Unlike management, leadership takes the front line in bringing change that is needed. It involves making the followers realize that they are part of the change (Huy, 2002). It makes followers own the whole process. They feel that some changes that are proposed are part of them and are meant to make their work easier. This way, they develop the responsibility to ensure that these changes are accomplished successfully and within the specified time. Such leadership will evoke desire in the followers to ensure that specific objectives are achieved within the specified time. It is the art of tying the objectives of an organization to that of all the stakeholders. In learning communities, this is very important in ensuring that success is achieved.

Role of a Leader in Learning Communities

According to Nahavandi (2011), in order to be considered a leader, one must be in a position to influence others to act in a way he or she desires. French and Raven’s five bases of power have gained fame in the recent past when describing sources of power. This theory fits well within a learning institution and learning communities. According to Nahavandi (2011), these include coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, expert power, and referral power. Reward power is based on the fact that a leader has the capacity to reward loyal followers through promotion, increased responsibilities among other privileges. Followers will obey the leader in order to benefit from the possible reward that the leader may give. In learning communities, teachers can use reward power to motivate students. The management can use this power to motivate teachers.

Parents and other stakeholders can use this power to motivate the management and other stakeholders. The coercive power is basically the opposite of reward power (Huy, 2002). It is based on the fear that a leader can unleash on followers who fail to follow their principles. This may come in form of demotion, assigning fewer privileges to the followers, or even a possible dismissal from the current position. This power should be used when dealing with issues of discipline among the student body. Although the management is not supposed to use this power with teachers, these teachers, and other employees within this community should know that this power exists and can be exercised when there is a need. Followers will act in line with the directives of the leader for fear of the consequences that may follow if the leader decides to offer punishment.

Legitimate power has its basis on the fact that everyone must respect authority. Depending on one’s rank within an organization, he or she will be able to issue instructions that must be followed by the subordinates. In learning institutions, there exist different offices, each having its own authority and responsibilities. Each member of the community should have respect for all the offices that exist (Abayo, 2009). Expert power is based on the belief that a leader has a given degree of knowledge that others lack. For this reason, people will trust any information coming from him or her. Teachers have expert power by the virtue of being able to impart knowledge to learners. They should be given the respect they deserve within this community.

Referral power is generated from the interpersonal relationship the leader has with the followers. In learning communities, referral power is very important. According to Hong and Faedda (2006), the ability of a learning institution to prosper always depends on how well the manager can delegate power to relevant officers. As was mentioned previously, this community has a number of stakeholders. In order to be in a position to run properly, selected individuals will be delegated specific duties. Generally, parents always delegate the duty of taking care of the children to the teachers. Within the learning system, there is always a number of departments, each delegated to a teacher who shall be the head of the department. Students will also be assigned duties of leadership depending on their ability to influence others positively. This creates an environment where every member of the organization feels responsible.


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