Virtual School Leader Profile
by Mark Sivy
At the core of a virtual school ecosystem is its leader. These leaders guide the school’s culture, processes, operations and outcomes. As a result of recent research interviews with virtual school leaders, much information was gathered about their personal leadership traits and styles. When asking questions related to these topics, rather than talking about themselves, the leaders typically resorted to citing practical examples about their school’s operations and the interactions they have had with their staff. The following were the four central themes that resulted:
Most leaders brought up this topic when they expressed having a lack of authority or input regarding state and local school district policies related to the virtual school and the use of its services. Other comments were made concerning the use of their authority within the virtual schools. In these instances, the leaders preferred to work with and make determinations and resolutions as a team, but that they would step in as the decision maker when needed.
Both directly and indirectly, the leaders made statements about monitoring trends and innovations, preparing for the future, and looking for new opportunities. Also brought up was the concept of being a change agent. In this role, the leader would be open to creativity, new ideas, different directions, and calculated risks.
Personal Motivations and Interests
The most consistent and heartfelt motivation for these leaders was their dedication to the students. These leaders were authentically concerned about the students, their learning, and their well-being. Some of the leaders expressed the fulfillment they previously had as a classroom teacher in a traditional school and saw their current positions as a continuation of that role. Others stated that they wished they had the opportunity to teach in an online setting. Other intrinsic incentives were the leadership role itself, working with curriculum and instruction, being on a leading edge of education, and facilitating education using technology.
These leaders maintained an arsenal of personal tactics, strategies, and methodologies that were used in addressing the large number of different leadership challenges and responsibilities. Their approaches were determined by the people, circumstances, limitations, and resources that were involved. In addressing the leadership demands, the most common characteristics were for the leaders to be dynamic, adaptable, open, and agile.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~John F. Kennedy