Leadership has changed. The concept of the heroic general giving soldiers orders and then watching them as they fall in line is a thing of the past. The hierarchical idea of one person barking orders and the rest happily obeying simply does not work. In my opinion, collaboration is the key to success, particularly in an educational environment.
Currently I am reading a great book titled Flat Army in a teacher leadership book club. The author, Dan Pontefract, brings to light key leadership strategies for success in the twenty-first century. And I must tell you it’s refreshing! His philosophy puts the focus on leader attributes, participative frameworks and collaborative action models. So far, my take from the book is for effective leadership to take place, in schools or any other environment, the focus needs to be on relationships; analyzing and making decisions with input from others and being on the same level as stakeholders.
Before Pontefract transformed the management structure at Telus, he was involved with the Vancouver school district. He observed teachers’ behaviours and emotional states. He also examined research of teacher engagement. He brought to light that in his findings, only thirty percent of teachers were engaged in their work. I find this to be deeply disappointing as in my opinion teachers choose this profession because they are deeply passionate. Passionate about enriching the lives of children and shaping future generations. To me, passion and engagement go hand and hand. I believe the key concepts discussed in Pontefract’s book are vital in promoting a healthy and successful environment for students, teachers and administration alike.
The author uses Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, as an example of what modern leadership must look like. Where plausible he leaned on his co-workers. He trusted them. He involved them in decision-making, and developed decisions through clear and honest communication. And all along he never made decisions based on what looked good on paper as he new “If it looks good on paper, it might not look good on skin.”  The focus was on keeping a healthy workplace. One where people understood viewpoints, trusted each other to move the company forward and most importantly were engaged. But what would this look like in a school?
It looks like teamwork, committees, collaboration, smiles, compliments and an overwhelming feeling of trust and importance. I feel very lucky to have been a part of so many schools with amazing administrators. My engagement has never been higher, and I believe a huge part of this needs to be credited to school leaders who have exhibited Mr. Pontefract’s philosophies. Constantly I am feeling like I am valued and trusted. I feel that my voice and ideas matter. I at no point feel inferior, but rather I feel like I belong.
Conversely, Daniel Pink in his book Drive, explains why some individuals begin losing motivation. According to his findings intrinsic motivation is the engine that drives one's engagement. A hierarchy system, where one is to take orders and have little say gives little opportunity to become intrinsically motivated. The result are employees who feel isolated and undervalued, thus leading to disengagement.
But creating a FLAT hierarchy-free ARMY who work together to achieve greatness is bound to have a positive influence on all who are involved. Pontefract is telling us to lean on the strengths of all involved in a school. He mentions to place a focus on taking time to talk with one another. And furthermore, to not only focus on work discussions but also to remember we have home lives we love to talk about too. Lastly, he reminds us that the focus can’t be on productivity, but rather it needs to be focussed on making a harmonious, hard-working workplace. In other words, keep all engaged and towing the rope together.
 Dan Pontefract, Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization (Jossey-Bass, 2013), 94