Principles of Effective Leadership

Principles of Effective Leadership

David P. Daves (University of Southern Mississippi, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1968-3.ch002
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The words and actions of a leader determine the effectiveness of any organization. An abundance of research provides valuable insight into typical qualities possessed by those who are charged with moving a group in a common direction. Studies show general characteristics of effective leaders, such as common personality traits, communication skills, and dispositional strengths that separate the effective leader from those who are less effective. However, there are other critical elements that must be in place and that go beyond personality, frugalness, and the willingness to work long hours. These basic components are at work in every organization and hold the key as to how a multifaceted, diverse group of people can work toward a common goal. Mastering these domains will provide next-generation leaders with the necessary skills to solve problems in the constantly evolving environment we call “school.”
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This chapter will examine five (5) distinct domains that must be guaranteed by a leader in order for an establishment to be effective. These factors go beyond the general make-up of the leader as a person and focus more on the make-up of the organization. Based on more than 30 years of administrative experience ranging from assistant principal, to principal, to assistant superintendent, to the Chair of one of the larger teacher education programs in the Southeast, the author focuses on these five spheres of influences that are essential to the success of everyone involved in the American educational system. Regardless of the size of the school, the location, resources available, socio-economic makeup of the patrons, this chapter outlines the necessity for educational leaders to make these areas points of emphasis. The domains include:

  • 1.

    Focused Purpose,

  • 2.

    Effective Personnel,

  • 3.


  • 4.

    Professional Freedom to Evolve, and

  • 5.

    Well-Defined Finished Product.

There is no hierarchal order. Instead, each strand is dependent upon the other much like the strength of a rope with five braids. The absence of any of these creates voids that are filled with undesirable and unintended consequences directly impacting the effectiveness of the organization. These domain traits are measurable and will provide the leader with a clear road map that will cultivate professional community, professional culture, successful teaching and learning behaviors, and the ability to transform schools into vibrant institutions.

Chapter Objectives

  • To create awareness of critical elements of an organization that must be addressed by administrators at all levels.

  • To assist in identifying these critical elements and the necessity to develop deliberate plans to insure their place in the organization.

  • To create awareness of the pit-falls that are inevitable when any of these elements are ignored.

  • To provide a historical perspective of the challenges faced by administrators in an ever-changing society.



Failing schools and school reform have become common topics of debate in the past forty years. In 1983, A Nation at Risk (Gardner) proclaimed our country to be in the position of losing our “unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation” and “being overtaken by competitors throughout the world” (U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education, p. 5). The message was that the world as we knew it was collapsing and that the American educational system, if properly directed, could be instrumental in preventing this collapse from happening. It is interesting to note that most of the laws pertaining to education, which have been passed since 1983 at both the state and federal levels, are deeply rooted in the recommendations of A Nation at Risk.

With the release of this report, an educational reform movement swept across America equaled to that of the Sputnik challenge. States across the country began addressing the issue of reshaping an educational system that was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future” (U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983, p. 5). Education in the United States was on a mission that would reshape schools and schooling, and would completely redefine what it means to be “educated.” Strategic planning became a national movement, and schools began the arduous process of identifying their mission, their purpose, what they valued, etc. Everyone was involved in this exceptionally time-consuming and expensive process, and incredibly detailed plans were developed. Strategic planning was an effective tool in many respects but was not always valued by those who were critical to implementing the plan. Many viewed these plans as added responsibilities and resistance was common. Inevitably, most would fall back into the same practices and habits that were exhibited before the plan.

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