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Modeling Behavior and Servant Leadership

Thu, Apr 5, 2012

Administration, Policy, Uncategorized

By Charles W. Bindig, Ed.D.
As aspiring administrators many of you may have an idea of how you think things should proceed when you take over as a new school principal. However, the prudent administrator approaches a new position from the point of view that you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a particular staff, before you try and implement change. The best way to approach this issue is to identify problems that are plaguing the school.

A number of years ago, I was appointed the principal of an elementary school in an area where 98% of the students walked to school. This would not appear to generate a problem, but as it turned out, the walking home engendered a great deal of conflict between students. In other words, the school had always had a great deal of fighting that occurred between the school and home. The previous principal developed a strategy whereby the perpetrators were held back in the office for 10 minutes, in order that the other students would be given a head start.
My approach to the problem was to walk with the students at dismissal on a daily basis for several blocks, until most were on their way home. In a sense, I developed a close supervision model, whereby I was able to observe aggressive behavior and keep my eye on potential troublemakers.
The result of this strategy was a complete shut down of aggressive behavior at the end of the day. Homeowners would stop me and tell me what a great job I was doing. Some even thought that I was actually walking home and lived in the neighborhood. The teachers immediately recognized this type of servant behavior worked, and that it enhanced the stature of the staff without requiring that anyone actually participate other than the principal.
This technique became so ingrained with the staff that on days I would need to leave early or would be attending a conference, they would without prompting, volunteer for the duty. The technique became affectionately known as “The Walk” and is a good example of modeling the type of behavior you would want from your staff. If you are willing to jump into the trenches and solve a problem, your staff will readily follow.
What to you think of this approach to leadership? What Covey metaphor or strategy is illustrated by this technique?

~Dr. Bindig is a full time manager of educational outreach for American Public University System and an instructor for the School of Education. He holds an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a masters degree in Musicology from Rutgers University. Dr. Bindig received an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University with a dual concentration in Educational Leadership and Instructional Technology. He has 32 years of experience as a public school teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in the New Jersey public schools. Dr. Bindig was a past Director of the Fulbright Global and Specialist Scholar Programs administered by U.S. Department of State. In addition, he has taught for several online universities as well as serving as a dissertation advisor at Nova Southeastern University. His main focus in educational research is student achievement gains facilitated via technology.

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