Tag Archives: leadership styles

Virtual School Leader Processes

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:

Authority

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.

Virtual School Leader

Forward Thinking

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

Leadership InterestThe 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.

Role Approach

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

Virtual School Work Environment

Virtual Schools Have Unique Work Environments

by Mark Sivy

virtual schoolThis post content was taken from my dissertation study and findings surrounding virtual school leadership. What I found was that interview responses concerning the work environment were generally similar from one leader to the next. Differences in the findings were usually due to the number and type of staff and their geographic proximity to one another.

External Work Processes

There were multiple discussions of the leaders interacting with individuals outside their virtual school for the purpose of assuring the school’s operation and success. The most frequent reference was dealing with the school districts that the virtual school served. The leaders often found themselves in role of working with school principals or district administrators to set the foundation for smooth interactions between the schools. Occasionally a virtual school leader was involved with negotiating special arrangements being made with a specific school district in terms of course content or instruction.

Beyond this, there was a mix of external involvement. Many of the leaders worked with online service vendors and course content providers to ensure cost-effective, dependable, and user-friendly services and systems for the school. The leaders also mentioned their participation in a variety of committees and professional groups where they worked on behalf of their virtual school on common topics and solutions to issues and challenges.

virtual school leader

Internal Work Processes

The requirements for and purposes of these processes are similar to those within a traditional school, but how they are carried out can vary widely due to the virtual setting. Even though many processes have been touched upon throughout the other themes, the leaders did directly discuss others that are included in this section.

One ongoing responsibility for the leaders was to position the organization to be capable of dealing with problems, changes, and new trends. This involved establishing flexible strategic plans and adaptable school goals and objectives. The leaders commonly accomplished this through teamwork and other collaborative efforts within the school.

To facilitate internal school operations, the leaders used an assortment of online, face-to-face, and hybrid gatherings to bring the stakeholders or project teams together. Some of these were strictly planning meetings, certain ones served as progress checkpoints, and others were interactive work sessions. Unless an executive decision was needed, the leaders tended to let project managers, team leaders, and the teams organize themselves and lead the progress.

virtual team

Internal Work Structure

Each school had their unique organizational pattern and hierarchy, distribution of work responsibilities, and employee work locations. This was often determined by funding, state-level directives, and the leader’s discretion. The first two created limitations, but the latter gave the leader latitude in making organizational decisions and assignments.

The individual styles, characteristics, and choices of the leaders are what gave the schools their personality and culture. The sense of trust and confidence that the leaders had to place upon their staff, mainly as a result of having so many working at-a-distance, enabled the organizational structures to remain functional and intact.

Reflection Point – “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” ~ Albert Einstein