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Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education



The concept of strategic leadership has been in the discourse of corporate governance and management but in recent days, strategic leadership has become a concept in education literature. Strategic leadership is also relevant in education more especially in a PK-12 educational setting. This chapter focuses on the barriers that hinder strategic leadership in education. Although school leaders in PK-12 educational setting are making efforts to bring improvement in their institutions there are some factors that militate against the strategies that school leaders adapt to bring improvement. Overcoming the challenges will not only help PK-12 school leaders to become very effective but also will make them more efficient in their work as school leaders.
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Chapter 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9242-6.ch007
The concept of strategic leadership has been in the discourse of corporate governance and management
but in recent days, strategic leadership has become a concept in education literature. Strategic leadership
is also relevant in education more especially in a PK-12 educational setting. This chapter focuses on the
barriers that hinder strategic leadership in education. Although school leaders in PK-12 educational
setting are making efforts to bring improvement in their institutions there are some factors that militate
against the strategies that school leaders adapt to bring improvement. Overcoming the challenges will
not only help PK-12 school leaders to become very effective but also will make them more efficient in
their work as school leaders.
Barriers to Strategic
Leadership in Education
Joseph Ezale Cobbinah
University of Ghana, Ghana
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
Success of educational institutional leadership does not depend on a number of students the institution
graduate every year but the competent way in which the leadership handles affairs of the school, pursu-
ant of the school’s vision and mission, achievement of the school’s goals and objectives as well as the
value-addition that is noticed in the numerous students that pass through the institutions. Strategic plan-
ning is one of the key component in education institutions and school leaders. However, being strategic
as a PK-12 school leader is not about pursuing the vision of the school but it is about acting, thinking
and influencing in ‘ways that promote the competitive advantage of their organization’ (DuBrin, 2013,
p. 451). Although the concept of strategic leadership has been in the management discourse for a very
long time, some critics argued that strategic leadership in education has its focus on the theoretical and
empirical work in corporate governance and not related to educational settings, so scholarship devoted
to strategic leadership in education is however very limited and scarce (Chan, 2018). Application of
strategic leadership in education has been application of leadership strategies of corporate governance.
Gill (2009) has argued that educational institutions do not only adopt strategic leadership approach in
management but also adopt strategic leadership approach to drive of organizational vision and achieve-
ment of organizational goals and objectives. Strategic leaders are supposed to find a short term as well
as the long term approach to achieve the organizational vision (DuBrin, 2013). However, no matter the
strategies school leaders adopt to implement policies and programmes, there are some barriers that may
affect effective the leadership strategic plans.
Like other institutions, PK-12 schools are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds, aspi-
rations and interest. Leading such institutions need strategic thinking, planning and ability to handle
whatever barriers that may affect effective implementation of policies and programmes. Although the
main focus of this chapter is barriers to strategic leadership in education it will also examine in detail
strategic leadership in education before looking at the barriers to strategic leadership and assess what
makes it difficult for school leaders to effectively implement their strategic agenda whether it is for the
longer or shorter term. The chapter explains how educational leaders could become strategic in their
handling of issues in a PK-12 education setting. In examining the barriers we will not look at strategic
leadership as a concept but will critically examine how educational leaders carry out their strategic
plans to enable them succeed as leaders. This include an examination of both the external and internal
environmental conditions that affect effective execution of a school’s strategic plan. Every school needs
to evaluate its performance and strategize towards improvement of its performance. When schools go
through evaluation process, they draw an improvement plan which is based on the school’s strategic
plan. The strategic plan is based on the school’s vision which needs to be communicated by the leader-
ship. So the chapter will also examines how PK-12 educational leaders adopt strategic planning process
to bring improvement into their schools. The final section will look at ways to overcome the barriers to
strategic leadership in PK – 12 education.
Strategic Leadership in Education: What Is it?
When we say PK-12 school leaders must be strategic in handling issues in their schools our attention
shift to approach that is applicable in corporate governance rather than the field of education. Strategic
leadership has been in the management discourse for many years but little investigation or studies have
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
been done about strategic leadership in education. According to Gill (2009) strategy is a term that is
more of a military than education, and the idea of strategic leadership also seem to be with those in the
corporate world rather than educational leadership. The idea of being strategic has always been associated
with those in corporate governance and has always mean putting plans in place to make the organization
have a competitive advantage over its neighbours. Some critics also argued that the concept of strategic
leadership has been within the management discourse for some time now but ‘much of the literature
on strategy development stems from general management ideas and practice, rather than educational
contexts’ (Preedy, Glatter, & Wise, 2003, p. 7). However, in the recent times, the concept of strategic
leadership has become popular in educational discourse so school leaders are becoming more strategic
in their planning and handling of issues in their schools more especially during in-service education and
training (INSET) and school improvement planning days.
Paradoxically ‘it is important for educational leaders to establish a shared strategic overview of
the future direction of the organization, clearly focused on the improvement of learning and teaching’
(Preedy, Glatter, & Wise, 2003, p. 1). Some of the problems that confront educational institutions today
whether external or internal, are cultural, ethnic, social or economic. Yet these problems require leaders
who have the skills and competencies to plan strategically for the schools and navigate it through the
turbulent waters and uncertainties. PK-12 education settings are also complex institutions that require
leaders who can plan strategically, initiate changes and able to respond and manage changes in the
schools. Being strategic is an essential component in the planning of activities of any school. It requires
leaders who are innovative and can propel the organization through the use of its values, purposes and
priorities. To have a better understanding of what strategic leadership is about, we will first look at the
concept of strategy; what do we mean by strategy before looking at the concept of strategic leadership.
Strategic leadership in education must be looked at in two different lenses – the strategic lens and the
leadership lens before looking at how the two concepts influence education. The meaning of strategy as
explained by Gill (2009, p. 177) ‘evolved over several centuries BC to mean successively the art of the
general, managerial skills as well as oratory and power and ultimately the ability to employ forces to
defeat opposing forces’. Nonetheless, the word strategic emanated from the word strategy which accord-
ing to Adair (2010, p. 9) evolved from two Greek words which come together to form strategy. He gave
the first Greek word as stratos, which means ‘an army spread out as in camp, and thus a large body of
people’ and egy, which also mean ‘to lead’ (p.9). So the word strategy comes from the two Greek words
which together becomes strategos which is explained as a general in command of an army (Gill, 2006;
Adair, 2010). So according to Adair in the 500 BC, senior army commanders in the Athenian army were
used to be called a strategos, which meant leader of the army. So strategy is a military word which has
become very common in corporate governance. In education, strategy is the plans the leadership will
put in place to enable the school reaches its agreed destination. It indicates the choices the school is
supposed to make as to whether the school must survive, improves or deteriorates.
Strategy is therefore defined as the planning of organization’s goals and actions in a period that
aligns the organization with its external environment (Forjoun 2002 as cited in Gill, 2006). It explains
what organization must do to get to that defined destination. It is about gathering the necessary evidence
about the current situation, looking at the opportunities available and assessing any challenges or threats
ahead, while ensuring that whatever plans that is put in place will move the organization or school into
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
the expected destination (Preedy, Glatter, & Wise, 2003; Gill, 2009). Therefore ‘strategies are ways of
pursuing the vision, identifying and exploiting opportunities, anticipating and responding to threats and
not only responding positively to the need for change but also creating it’ (Gill, 2006; 180). Being stra-
tegic in a PK-12 education setting is about re-positioning the school to survive in a competitive global
economy and environment. The process of being strategic ‘comprises gathering external and internal
evidence on the current situation and future trends, identifying a range of strategic options, selecting the
most appropriate one and implementing it’ (Preedy, Glatter, & Wise, 2003, p. 7). What do we mean by
to become strategic in dealing with issues in a PK-12 school? Or how can a PK-12 school leader become
strategic? To answer these questions, we look at how educational leaders in a PK-12 setting could also
become strategic.
Johnson & Scholes (2003, p.147) view strategic leaders as individuals ‘upon whom strategy develop-
ment change are seen to be dependent’. Strategic leaders are ‘individuals personally identified with and
central to the strategy of their organization: their personality or reputation may result in others willingly
deferring to such an individual and seeing strategy development as his or her province’ (p.147-148).
Strategic leaders are supposed to look at the medium term and for a long term direction of the school,
‘mapping out its future in an integrated way, and taking account of expected trends and developments
in the environment as well as internally’ (Preedy, Glatter, & Wise, 2003, p. 6). This constitute strategic
planning which every PK-12 school needs to do, because it brings about commitment, ownership and
makes members within the school community feel belonged. The school improvement planning pro-
cess is an example of a short- or medium-term direction of the school, which is developed through the
long-term plan – which is commonly called the strategic vision of the school. The PK–12 school leaders
need to strategize and ensure that their schools develop through its improvement plan. Schools do self-
evaluation to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and identify any threats and opportunities available to
them. Schools use self-evaluation to do stocktaking and also plan for the future. This is the strategic
approach that every PK-12 educational leader is supposed to demonstrate so as to bring improvement
in their schools and enhance students’ performance.
The concept of leadership has been explained by a lot of authors in so many ways. Huczynski and
Buchanan (2013) look at leadership as one who can exercise influence over another due to the power or
authority vested in the individual. While Roddick (1992) also views leadership as the creation of vision
that will inspire others to work towards achievement of the vision. While Cole & Kelly (2011) also see
leadership as a process through which one individual influences the other or others through voluntary
contribution towards the achievement of the organizational vision. Leadership is about lifting of people’s
vision, their aspirations and hope into another level, which could be voluntary or through emotional
feeling for the leader. Bush, Bell and Middlewood (2011, p. 3) also see leadership as something that
is ‘intentional, in that the person seeking to exercise influence is doing so in order to achieve certain
purposes’. They pointed out that the leaders influence is supposed to be natural because the influence
does not explain to the individual what goals to be achieved and how the goals are to be achieved. Rather
the way followers follow depends on emotions of the followers. Sometimes people follow their leaders
because of how they feel about them and often times may not understand why they follow yet they do
follow them.
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
According to Gill (2009) leadership begins with a vision. It is about setting a vision for the organization.
It gives direction as to how an organization is perceived by the leadership in terms of how they want to
see it in the future. Leadership is associated with vision ‘which provides the essential sense of direction
for leaders and their organizations’ (Bush, Bell, & Middlewood, 2011, p. 4). Vision demonstrates what
organization want to be, where it want to go and how it intends to get to that particular destination. Bush,
Bell, & Middlewood (2011) have observed that over emphasis on vision is sometimes problematic. They
argued that in most often the vision of an organization is how an individual – mostly the leader wishes
to see the organization in the future, which sometimes become very difficult for the members to follow
or may be in resonance with the ideological foundation of the organization or its establishment. Vision
needs to be communicated properly to the members so that the organization is not seen as a value-free
zone. In a PK-12 school setting, the leaders are expected to deliver and achieve results for the school
through the vision, by providing explanation to things that could not be achieved and areas that may
need improvement (Pettinger, 2007). The step-by-step way through which a vision of a school would be
achieved through proper planning and implementation within a given period is what would be described
as strategic leadership in education.
According to DuBin (2013, p. 450) being a strategic leader in education is not just about dealing
with ‘the major purposes of an organization or an organizational unit’, but rather strategic leadership
‘emphasizes balancing the short term and long-term needs of the organization to ensure the enduring
success of the organization’. Strategic leaders in PK-12 schools are supposed to ensure their schools
deliver what is expected even during difficult and turbulent times (Adair, 2010) within a given period of
time. This according to Preedy, Glatter, & Wise (2003) involves effective planning because it provides
the basis for turning the school improvement plan which sometimes becomes the strategic plan of the
school into action and realities. It requires commitment on the part of the teachers, school leadership and
the school community. Even the external and internal environment could play an important role in the
strategic agenda of the school. According to DuBin (2013, p.451) ‘leaders engage in strategic leadership
when they act, think and influence in ways that promote the competitive advantage of their organization’.
Strategic leadership ‘involves leading the strategic management process to help organization cope with
change that seems to be increasing exponentially in today’s globalized environment’ (Lussier, 2004, p.
374). Strategic leadership in education can be applied in different concepts, sections, departments or
units within the school. The application and practice of different leadership types in different aspects
of a PK-12 educational setting help to serve different functions due to the different types of leadership,
which also needs ‘different strategies in educational management and development’ discourse (Cheng,
2003, p. 56).
Like any other organization, leaders in KP-12 education setting must also adopt strategic leadership
approach to make their schools effective, competitive and improve. Strategic leadership in education
therefore explains how educational institutions and departments wish to be seen or known and what they
will do to accomplish that leadership dream. This could be in a form of how well managed the institu-
tion would be to make it more competitive and sustainable. It is done through the school improvement
planning process. In many schools self-evaluation sometimes form the basis of its planning process,
because it through self-evaluation that a school identifies its weaknesses, strengths, any opportunities
and threats that may affect the school’s strategic agenda so as to achieve its future goals and objectives?
When schools are in very challenging circumstances it is about having an effective plan after consider-
ing all available plans and having selected the most effective and favourable option to be implemented
while marshalling the staff towards achievement of those plans.
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
Educational institutions are very complex places with individuals of diverse cultural, racial, ethnic
and economic backgrounds, with different aspirations and objectives. Strategizing for PK-12 education
setting for example is not an easy task. Every school leader in a PK-12 setting must understanding the
culture of the school as well as the climate to enable them strategize. Preedy et al (2003) have observed
that being strategic sometimes leads to changes in the school that may require commitment of staff,
students as well as parents and even the school community. They further argued that;
Bringing about successful educational change is a long-term and socially complex process, where the
implementation stage is particularly problematic – requiring scope for practitioners to work out their
individual meanings of what the changes involve for their own thinking, beliefs and actions. (Preedy et
al, 2003, p. 7).
Managing institutions like PK-12 setting requires leaders who can think strategically to make things
happen. They need to be very strategic in their planning and management of programmes and activities
in the school. Preedy et al (2003) have explained that ‘understanding the complex factors contributing to
organizational effectiveness and improvement; and negotiating with colleagues and other stakeholders an
agenda for ongoing self-review and action directed towards educational improvement’ (p. 8). Therefore
the ‘the leadership needs of teachers and principals are essential to understand and anticipate as choice
programmes can easily bring a large number of new students to a school and quickly change its culture’
(Frabutt, Holter & Nuzzi, 2013, p. 91). School leaders who are strategic are supposed to demonstrate it
through change initiated activities that make their school have a competitive advantage (DuBrin, 2013).
Strategic leadership is a complex personal characteristics and thinking patterns, so school leaders must
be to demonstrate this through their actions and management of the institution. Cheng (2003, p. 57) has
observed that, an educational leader should be able to provide ‘direction and expert advice on develop-
ments of learning, teaching and curriculum, emphasizes relevance to education in management, diagnoses
educational problems and encourages professional development and teaching improvement’. These are
some of the characteristics and attributes that every strategic school leader is supposed to demonstrate.
Studies on strategic leadership have shown that leaders in PK-12 educational settings also need to
have a better understanding of the different groups of individuals they teach, their backgrounds, expecta-
tions and aspirations and should be able to plan strategically to meet the numerous challenges they face
within the school (Eacott, 2011; Carter and Greer, 2013). In a PK-12 school setting, ‘teaching must be
connected to the strategies, the realization of which is the responsibility of the principal and the persons
who on the basis of the decision on delegation of authority have been allocated leadership responsibili-
ties’ (Lahtero & Kuusilehto-Awale, 2013, p.548). Leaders engage in strategic leadership practice when
they act, think and influence in ways that promote the competitive advantage of their organization. In
their analysis of district schools in the US, Wiebe, Taylor & Thomas (2000) observed that states and
districts schools adopt strategic approach to assure that all PK-12 students have basic technological
skills while ensuring that the teachers also employ technology in their lesson delivery to improve their
teaching and students’ learning.
Like in any other educational institution, PK-12 education demands teachers to have some fundamental
understanding of the guide to instructional decisions they make but should also know how to develop
their students’ knowledge and problem solving skills in whichever subject they provide instructions in a
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
more strategic way (Franklin, Bargagliotti, Case, Kader, Scheaffer, & Spangler, 2015). This according to
Lussier (2004) makes strategic leadership very crucial to a school’s ability to ‘adapt, evolve and prevail
amid turbulent disruptions’ (p. 374). In our quest to enhance the knowledge and skills of students, PK-
12 school leaders are supposed to provide instruction that may be applied when they plan and engage in
teaching and learning with PK-12 students (Odom & Bell, 2017). In other words PK – 12 school leaders
are supposed to be strategic in their planning, preparation and handling of affairs of the school. This
is the direction that every PK-12 school leader should go to make their schools effective and improve.
Barriers to Strategic Leadership
Leaders in every PK-12 school setting need to be very strategic in planning and management of their
schools. Every school has a vision statement it follows, but the strategy is the shorter term approaches
towards achievement of the vision which is usually for a longer term. To be strategic has its own barriers
that if not effectively handled could hinder the work of the school leader. Some of these barriers may be
due to the work of the leadership or those in management, while some could be as a result of the school
environment, climate, culture, etc. In his study to investigate the roles of principals in three districts
in Ottawa Canada, Fullan (2003) asked the principals the barriers they must overcome to succeed as a
principal. According to Fullan the barriers that confront school principals are many but he divided them
into two broad groups as ‘self-imposed and system-imposed’ barriers to principals’ leadership agenda
(p. 16). He explained the self-imposed barriers as barriers that the individuals may create unknowingly
within the system. In a PK-12 educational setting such barriers could also be as a result of the culture of
the school. The self-imposed barriers (Fullan, 2003) which Hesselbein (1997) also calls personal bar-
riers affect the effective performance of the principals. The work of Fullan and Hesselbein have put the
self-imposed barriers together into categories which have been explained below;
Perceived system limitations; that is being a class teacher for many years does not itself make one
an effective leader. When school leaders stay longer in their roles they become over complacent
and that affects the nature of their work as leaders.
Lack of personal goals or plans as a leader affect how the leader goes about planning for the
Lack of generosity on the part of the leaders in terms of ideas sharing, lack of encouragement,
respect, feedback or compliment make followers relax on the job which affect their performance
as well and could inhibit the work of those in leadership position.
If-only dependency; this happens when the leader believes that they can only be effective if they
can appoint certain individuals before their work could be effective. In other words, such leaders
always shift the blame rather than finding strategic ways to address the perceived problem.
Loss of moral compass occurs when the leaders do not know the purpose of their work as school
leaders, so they may find it difficult to plan for the organization.
Always finding faults with what their subordinates do without recognizing efforts individual’s put
into their work or not acknowledging their strengths so as to encourage and motivate them.
Inability to take charge of one’s own learning; in other words school leaders must make sure that
they make their schools become a learning organization and the head teacher or principal must be
the leader of learning – this is demonstrating leadership for learning which every PK-12 school
leader is expected to demonstrate.
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
Responsibility virus. – that is when leaders become very responsible with the day-today- day ac-
tivities of the school. Such leaders take responsibility of everything no matter who caused it. This
could lead to failure. This is also called over responsibility virus. In some cases some leaders do
not care about what happens in their school. Such leaders are usually the lizzie-faire or lackadai-
sical type of leaders. They assume minimal responsibility for success results and focus on other
things that do not concern their school.
Lussier (2004) also added that individuals within an organization either knowingly or unknowingly
may demonstrate some behaviours that could undermine the effectiveness of the leader and that could
also be described as self-imposed barrier. For instance when there is lack of trust or respect for the leader
instructions are not taken and individuals follow their own agenda. This what I term the organization is
seen as being operated in a value-free zone – that means everybody does whatever he or she likes and
there is loss of control and respect for the leadership. The work of the leadership is undermined.
The second set of barriers that hinder the work of school leaders have been described as system-imposed
barriers (Fullan, 2003) or institutional-imposed barriers (Hesselbein, 1997). They are barriers that hinder
the work of the school leadership and may be due to the establishment of the institution. They include;
Centralization/decentralization whipsaw that affect the effectiveness of the work of the leader.
In some countries the work of schools and colleges are controlled by the central government and
that makes the leaders relax or stay on the fence. Such leaders always wait for instruction from
the central government, because they are mostly not accountable for anything that may go wrong.
This is when the educational system activities are centralized. It takes away authority from those
in leadership because they remain unaccountable. Perhaps if the system is decentralized and the
leadership is not comfortable with decentralized system of governance things are done in a hap-
hazard way and that affect the work of the leadership.
Role overload and role ambiguity. This is when there is too much work for the leaders; when stu-
dents, parents and government expectations are very high there is always pressure on the leadership
and that could render the leadership very weak and could weaken moral and overall performance.
Limited investment in leadership development – some heads of PK-12 schools get too much over-
whelmed with their work, become complacent and do not consider leadership training very impor-
tant although their performance might be below average. Being in the classroom for many years
does not mean one will be an effective leader, head teacher or principal, if not supported with
leadership training.
When organization does not have clearly defined roles for its activities, it affect performance of
the leader. For instance in some PK-12 schools there is no differentiation between governance and
administration or policy initiatives and operations of organizations. When things are haphazard, it
become problematic and difficult for those in leadership to effectively lead.
Neglect of leadership succession – since the position of any PK-12 school leader is not permanent,
succession planning becomes very important to ensure continuity and sustainability of perfor-
mance. Good leadership planning enhances continuity and commitment to carry out a school’s
function or activities after the leader leaves.
Limited advanced definitions of the principal’s role, resulting in future to realize the moral imper-
ative of schooling. That is when some PK-12 head teachers take up leadership positions without
clear specifications of their job responsibilities so performance become haphazard.
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
Fullan (2003) explained that the two sets of barriers are ‘two sides of the same coin because they af-
fect each other’ (p. 16). Whether the barriers are system-imposed or self-imposed, PK-12 school leaders
are supposed to understand how their leadership activities impact on the performance of their schools.
According to Hesselbein (1997) self-imposed barriers affect leaders’ performance in many ways and
can also weaken their commitment to work. For instance, if school leaders lack formal and personal
goals and do not have a clear formula to solve a particular problem or the leader has no clear understand-
ing of themselves – that means the individual cannot identify his or her weaknesses and strengths, and
that may affect their performance in PK-12 classroom (Curcie, 2009). When a school principal cannot
identify his own weaknesses or strengths how could he or she identify the problems of the school he or
she leads? It becomes difficult and problematic to even address problems of the school let alone taking
lead in solving them. Lussier (2004, p. 375) observation of the barriers to strategic leadership include
the following ‘poor decision making during strategic management process’; when leadership plans are
not in line with organizational overall strategic agenda; when leadership pursue their personal interest
and agenda against organizational agenda; setting of too ambitious goals that are difficult to achieve;
condone unethical practices and behaviours that compromises organizational agenda and procedures;
selecting wrong strategies and plans; failing to align organizational performance with the overall organi-
zational performance standards. Ways of overcoming these barriers is not only problematic but remains
a difficult challenge for many school leaders.
Overcoming Barriers to Strategic Leadership
To be strategic is one of the effective approaches to organizational planning and management. Being
strategic as a leader does not necessarily mean the PK-12 school leader is immune to the barriers discussed
in the earlier section of this chapter, rather there are some barriers to strategic leadership in education
that must be handled to enable a school achieve its goals and objectives. In a college for instance ‘the
need to be responsive to a range of stakeholders, whilst at the same time holding some sense of strategic
direction or vision’ of college and what it stands for, in reflection of ‘the day-to-day running of the col-
lege’s activities as it is in any other organizational leadership’ (Iszatt-White, 2010, p. 410). To overcome
the barriers means the school leadership must assess the day-to-day activities and find ways to respond
to the barriers be it self-imposed or system-imposed. Hesselbein (1997) observed that
It takes courage for a leader to identify and confront self-imposed barriers, to put in place the personal
strategies required to unleash the energy, innovation and commitment to self-development. It takes
equal courage to identify and confront the institutional barriers that limit and inhibit the people of the
organization. (p.5).
Hesselbein noted that it needs real leaders to fight through the turbulence of strategic leadership bar-
riers to make their schools effective and also improve. School leaders need to be strategic by encouraging
teamwork in the school, foster support among the staff and ensure that the vision of the school is well
communicated to both teaching and non-teaching staff. Strategic leaders are supposed to stay committed
to their work, invest to improve their leadership skills through professional development and training so
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
as to overcome the barriers to their leadership (Ulrich & Smallwood, 2013). They are supposed to attend
training, allow those who have experience to give them coaching, ‘take performance reviews seriously,
participate in 360-degree feedback and identify what they can do to be more effective’ (p.32). Strategic
school leaders will be able to overcome the barriers to their leadership when they are able to sustain
their performance and whatever changes they would make in their organizations.
When the ‘barriers come down, the result is a competitive, productive and motivated workforce’ who
will focus not only on the day-to-day management of the school but strategize for the future (Hesselbein,
1997; Ulrich & Smallwood, 2013, p. 5). The process of eliminating barriers that hinder effectiveness of
the work of school leaders needs courage and determination. Hesselbein (1997) has observed that when
the barriers to educational leadership are broken ‘morale soars, performance rises and the organization
is liberated to reach its highest potential’ (p. 5). To Lussier (2004), teachers who adopts good strategic
leadership approaches are expected to think strategically, through demonstration of change initiated
activities that makes their school have a competitive advantage. Being strategic is not just about ef-
fective planning, but leadership commitment to pursue the strategic plan that enhances organizational
performance as well as its improvement.
Strategic leadership is in education is a process that provides school leaders a clear direction for their
schools. To be strategic as a school is about ensuring that a school takes a short term, medium term or a
longer term view of its development plan or agenda. DuBrin is of the view that ‘leaders engage in stra-
tegic leadership when they act, think and influence in ways that promote the competitive advantage of
their organization’ (DuBrin, 2013, p. 451). Unlike the corporate world, strategic leadership in education
is more complex because of the diverse nature of the school community members who have different
backgrounds, aspirations and expectations. There is the need for educational leadership to understand
the diverse nature of the stakeholders so that no matter the barriers to their leadership they would be
able to plan strategically towards improvement of the institution.
Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education
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