This chapter focuses on developing leaders for a specific context: organizations that are designed, created, and function daily to meet the educational needs of children in kindergarten through twelfth grade in America's public schools. This context is similar to all other leadership contexts in some ways. For example, goals must be set and achieved, employees must be motivated and developed, and resources must be obtained and well managed. However, we believe that the public school setting has unique elements that demand a customized approach to the development of its leaders.
We first describe two characteristics of educational leaders that we think influence their perceptions of leader development: their entry into public schools as classroom teachers and their expertise as educators. We then turn to the broader sociopolitical context—the external forces that influence the process of education and, subsequently, the dynamics of leadership in school settings. Finally, we share how we have taken these background and contextual factors into account in the design and delivery of leader development programs for educational leaders.
Historically in the United States, educational leaders at the school level (principals) and school district level (superintendents) began their careers primarily as classroom teachers. This common professional background has generated a population of educational ...