Women in Leadership: Summary for Success

Women in Leadership: Summary for Success

Kerri Erin Zappala-Piemme (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7056-1.ch017

Abstract

Through observation, research, shared experiences, and collective wisdom gained from failure and success, this chapter explores best practice to help leaders navigate the challenges and demands that they encounter in their careers. The topics explored in this chapter are critical for males and females alike because they provide specific examples of best practice and research on how to become an effective leader. Yet they are especially relevant for women in leadership positions because data and scenarios are shared that shed light on the gender inequities that still exist in leadership today. Understanding the unique dynamics that women face and changing practices and approaches to address these issues are necessary. Each topic assists leaders in positioning themselves so they are optimizing their potential for success.
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Introduction

With over twenty years of experience in leadership, I write this chapter in hopes that the trials, tribulations, and the successes that I have encountered and enjoyed along the way will assist you in your journey as a leader. Regardless of the leadership position you currently hold or are aspiring to attain, each topic presented in this chapter will help you address essential elements of leadership. For example, (a) What leadership role is a good match for you? (b) Why it is necessary to establish your vision, mission, and plan, and how to communicate them to others. (c) The importance of creating your team(s), negotiating and advocating for yourself. (d) How to effectively develop your organization and the people in it. This chapter offers a summary for success. By being aware of the statistics and research, and implementing the best practices provided in each topic, you will be assisted in reaping the rewards that a career in leadership has to offer.

In the 1990s, I was sitting in educational leadership graduate classes to gain my administrative certificate and I can remember my female professor saying that women take longer to start their administrative careers than men. I recall looking at statistics in the Snapshot published by the New York State Council of School Superintendents; it was true men were entering the field sooner. Women would wait until they felt they were ready. They would take more classes, get more degrees, climb the ladder slower and wait longer before entering administration. They wanted to be ready before they made the jump. Men just jumped right in. They did not have any more courses, credentials or experience. They just went for it. Men learned what they needed to in the positions once they obtained them and did not over prepare or wait. They had the confidence to jump right in and gain what they needed to know in the field. At that moment, I remember saying to myself that I was not going to become a statistic. I was not going to wait, over prepare and take more classes and professional development in the field and get one more degree before I felt I was ready. I was going to jump right in, start and learn what I needed to on the job.

I finished my doctorate, got my certificates and the first leadership position I applied for was a Council for Special Education/Committee on Preschool Special Education (CSE/CPSE) Chairperson and Assistant Principal K-12. When I went to the school to interview the superintendent offered me a non-administrative position after my interview. I thanked him for his time but insisted that if I was going to travel the distance to work in the district, I wanted to start my career there as an administrator. I asked him to give me a chance in the position that I had applied and interviewed for and assured him he would not be upset with his decision. A week later, I received a call offering me the administrative position and I was glad I turned down his first offer of employment. I was determined that I was ready and I was not going to wait. I was going to push myself past my comfort zone and I was confident that I could learn everything I needed to know on the job. The truth is, you can take all the courses you want, pile on the certificates and degrees and nothing is ever going to prepare you more than if you just step right in and do the work. The job, in fact, taught me everything I needed to know. I was thirty years old and holding my first district-level administrative position. I loved my work and learned a lot. Respectively, my next positions were high school principal, elementary school principal, curriculum coordinator and superintendent of schools. I was thirty-nine years of age and holding my first superintendency. In my region, I was one of three female superintendents in the thirty-one districts.

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