Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Next Generation of Educational Leadership

What will the next generation of educational leaders look like? While we may not be able to accurately paint a portrait of these leaders, we can identify a number of characteristics that will be vital for future educational leaders, i.e. superintendents, heads of school, deans, division heads, department heads, to possess and embody in order to lead their stakeholders successfully through the uncertain years ahead. The next generation of leaders must succeed where the last generation has fallen short if faculty and students are to surpass the quality of the last generation. Here we’ll look at three of the most significant qualities the next generation of educational leaders must possess.

First and foremost, the next generation of educational leaders must understand the changing face of the world. Today’s world has become smaller and flatter than the world even five or ten years ago. Leaders in education must prepare students to enter a world that will be even smaller and flatter than it is today. Furthermore, leaders must strategically and intentionally prepare students to not only exist but also to thrive in a world in which globalization seems to be taking place at an exponential rate. This means students must be more technologically savvy than any students before them. This also means that students must be more cognizant of the global cultures which, whether in person or via data streams, inevitably will impact their success in higher education and in the business world.

Second, the next generation of educational leaders must be visionary risk takers. Certainly there are tried and true methods of teaching and assessment that will remain pillars of great educational practice. However, judging by the current state of education in the United States, the most recent generation of best practices has missed the mark. Therefore, educational leaders must look into a future we can’t yet predict and formulate a vision for what well-educated and thoroughly-prepared students must look like five, ten or perhaps fifteen years from now. Furthermore, educational leaders must be truly innovative and take calculated risks on strategies to improve teachers and to prepare students to be at the cutting edge of the workforce and the intellectual elite of an increasingly globalized world.

Third, the next generation of educational leaders must be great managers of human resources. Students will never improve and student performance and preparedness will never improve until those teaching them improve and teachers will become only as great as their leaders help them to become. Educational leaders must find ways to improve the knowledge and skills of their teachers, retain the best teachers, identify and train future leaders, provide satisfactory compensation and safe and rewarding work environments. Furthermore, educational leaders must continuously, to borrow a phrase from Jim Collins, make sure that the right people are on the bus and that they the people on the bus are in the right seats.

While no solutions or strategies have been offered up here and now, this initial post serves only to raise concerns and present some possible points for future discussion or debate. The purpose of this blog in the coming weeks and months will be to address the concerns listed above, to offer strategies to make educational leaders better, to offer strategies to make educational personnel better and to provide a forum for discussion or debate relative to these topics.

What does the next generation of educational leaders look like?


Phil said...

Nathan, I think this is going to be a fantastic blog in terms of content and conversation.

While I concur with your observations about the future of educational leadership, there's something important to add (and you seem to imply this in reason #1). Perhaps this is a given in education--but 21st century style collaboration, or to use a fashionable term--"crowdsourcing"--is also key. And perhaps implicitly this is your aim for the blog.

So to answer your question, I'd say the next generation of educational leaders must be "crowdsourcers."

**Journalist Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing in a 2006 Wired article and has a blog:

Howe defines crowdsourcing as "the application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software."

Fred said...

Great blog idea.
At this year's National Association of Independent Schools the futurist Faith Popcorn described schools 20 years from now. Her ideas were fascinating. She said that the common notion of what a school is and does will no longer be viable. That schools without walls will dominate the educational landscape beyond the primary grades, and that home schooling with enormous amounts of high quality support from web-based or other technology-based providers will be a major player in elementary.
If she is right at all she raises the enormously important question of how we today can begin integrating technology in more creative, more connecting ways. There was fear 20 years ago that technolgies like e-mail would actually diminish the art of writing and isolate us. We now know that it has had a very different result.
Imagine a world in which your high school junior takes English Lit from a professor at Oxford, Calculus from a mathematician in Mombai, and music from an instructor at Julliard. How can all this be brought together in a cogent way? How will certificates of accomplishment (dimplomas?) be reckoned, and by whom? How will quality be assured, and who pays whom for the service? What will the school experience be? Will we still need cheerleaders?

The global flat-world economy described by Friedman means we will have a wildly different world view, and in everything, greater options. So how do we make the best use of them? What indeed will school mean? These are all essential questions for the leaders of tomorrow, but how do we prepare ourselves for it? What in our edcuation as leaders has the slightest connection to that world? Wow.

What an exciting future!

Harold said...

Brilliant work, Nathan!

As to the blog, and to paraphrase DuFour, teachers are independent contractors connected by a common parking lot. Or as another source wrote, “In an era in which cable television and the Internet routinely broadcast almost every imaginable human activity . . . teaching may be the last private act in America.” I think this generation, and certainly the next, will need to engage the faculty at a much higher level in order to get from them what is necessary to educate twenty-first century students. Public or independent, the price for not doing so will be a continuing academic slide.

ecarson said...


This post and blog will challenge all of us who are academic and administrative leaders in schools. I do believe that independent schools and those who operate them should look to be transformative in our leadership, teaching, scholarship, and in how we see ourselves among fellow colleagues and peers acros the country. Why do things because a local school district does it that way.

As a faculty, we must do a better job when it comes to having important conversations about independent schools and how they function.

I look forward to further discussions on this topic.

ecarson said...


I wanted my readers to know about your great blog. I wrote a short piece introducing it to my readers.

Edward J Blum said...

I am so glad to see this interview with Phil. He is truly an innovator in the field of pedagogy and teaching. In the future, I plan on stealing so many ideas of his. Thank goodness that imitation is the highest form of flattery in teaching.