Student Well-Being Opinion

Teacher Leadership: What’s Your Theory?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — November 11, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Naima Khandaker, Battelle for Kids Human Capital Specialist, authored to this post. Naima is a former teacher and current education policy nerd who believes that one day soon, education will be great for all kids.

I’m going to ask you to think back to your college Psychology 101 class; specifically, to the concept of Theory X and Theory Y. Ring a bell? Developed in the 1960s by Douglas McGregor, these theories describe two approaches to motivating employees. The Theory X manager believes employees inherently dislike working, and must be closely monitored and controlled. The Theory Y manager believes employees are self-motivated and want to do well at work. The Theory X manager maintains an authoritative style, while the Theory Y manager aims to create a comfortable working environment, provide leadership and development opportunities for employees, and allow them to use their skills and talents.

These theories are particularly relevant in light of the current national conversation around human capital reform in education, especially the notion of teacher leadership. Programs such as DC Public Schools’ Leadership Initiative for Teachers, the recently-released recommendations for teacher career advancement opportunities from Iowa’s Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation, and groups such as the Teacher Leaders Network are all focused on finding ways to help high-performing teachers grow professionally and expand their impact on their organization.

Then there are teacher-run schools, which take this idea a step further. In these schools, teachers work collaboratively to not only deliver instruction to students, but to make key decisions and manage administrative duties. In some cases, as with Teacher Professional Partnership arrangements, these schools actually operate without an appointed leader, such as a principal. How’s that for Theory Y?

I’d love to know--what’s your theory on leadership? What does your school or district do to provide leadership opportunities for teachers?

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.