With the embracing of teacher leadership in New Jersey, an opportunity has arisen to rethink school leadership structures. Traditionally, school leadership has been defined as having a position as a school administrator, as someone who has the authority to compel others to action through accountability. This perspective of school leadership is even reinforced by the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (formerly ISLLC) which speak only to those in positions of administration, not the classroom, and fails to separate management from leadership.
Teacher leadership shifts the paradigm of manager as leader and requires new thinking around how leadership is enacted within schools. It requires a separation of management and leadership to allow for clarity of purpose when organizing actions in schools. A model for this new approach to leadership is the Chaordic Path.
The chaordic path divides organizations into three domains – Control, Order, and Chaos. The control domain is defined as a situations where individuals now both what needs to be done and how to do it. Control is driven by rules. The order domain defines situations structured around norms with a wide range of acceptable behaviors. The chaos domain is fully unstructured with the appropriate actions and behaviors as yet to be defined. This is the basis of the chaordic framework. None of these domains is any better than the other, rather they are used to determine what type of situation the organization is facing and inform the actions that are taken.
Thinking chaordically, management lies in the region between control and order. This is where the answers are known; this is the region of the status quo. Again, there is no judgement about being in this realm. It simply describes the predispositions necessary when navigating the aspects of an organization where the appropriate actions are known and clearly described. In the region between chaos and order is where the answers are unclear and so leadership is required. It is not leadership that is positional but rather driven by curiosity, expertise, and inquiry. It is a form of leadership that is open to anyone in the organization willing to explore new ideas and approaches. It is leadership that is contextual as opposed to authority driven.
Chaordic leadership is leadership that empowers all members of the learning community to boldly explore the unknown and continually develop new ways of working and being together from the perspective of the classroom. It is leadership that focuses on the ongoing renewal of schools so they best meet the needs of students. It is inclusive and participatory. Teacher leadership is chaordic leadership.