March 15, 2000 1 min read

Learning Leadership: In a seminar that is part classroom and part therapist’s chair, principals are developing their personal leadership styles as part of a program that has spread from New York City to Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit.

Many leadership-development programs have recently become available to principals as school leaders find themselves under increasing public scrutiny and pressure to perform. But this one is unusual because it is run by former bulwarks of the business sector.

The National Executive Service Corps, an organization of retired executives that provides affordable management consulting to other nonprofit groups, had been mentoring individual principals in New York for years when it decided in 1992 to expand the training. It called on Jerome M. Ziegler, who designed the 10-session workshop.

Mr. Ziegler, a professor emeritus at Cornell University, put together an eclectic reading list that ranges from the management guru Peter Drucker to the poet W.H. Auden. Participants share their struggles running urban schools, wrestle with such issues as maximizing teacher performance and involving students’ families, and study theories of leadership, seeking to identify and embrace their own personal styles.

The seminar fits right in to the national dialogue on how best to train school leaders. Joseph F. Murphy, an education professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said training has not focused enough on issues that truly move teaching and learning.

“Educational leadership has had too little to do with education or leadership,” Mr. Murphy said. “Anything that helps refocus us on either of those two legs is a good idea.”

The NESC provides the workshop facilitators and all the reading materials free of charge to the participants, said Gerald D. Levy, the president of the New York-based organization’s education group.

Alexander F. Cornbluth, the principal of New York City’s High School for Environmental Studies, said a valuable outcome of the seminar was the formation of a group of principals who stay in touch.

“We discussed Plato, ethics, how to balance management and leadership, but also got the chance to reflect on things with people who do what we do every day,” Mr. Cornbluth said.

More information about the program is available at

—Catherine Gewertz

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2000 edition of Education Week