Virtual School Leader Insight
by Mark Sivy, Ed.D.
Throughout my research on virtual school leaders, the participant responses provided some insight into their personal leadership traits, approaches, and styles. More specifically, the following open-ended question directly sought this information:
What are your thoughts on the senior leadership approach for a virtual school?
So what I found as a whole, rather than directly talking about themselves, the leaders typically responded to these questions by citing practical examples about their operations and their interactions with their school and staff. The following is a breakdown and discussion of the findings.
Some leaders brought up this topic when they expressed having a lack of authority or input regarding most of the state and local school district policies related to the virtual school and the use of its services. A few other comments were made concerning authority within the virtual schools. In these instances, the leaders preferred to work with and make decisions as a team, but that they would step in with authority when needed. This is aligned with Carreno (2009) who states that the lines of authority should exist, but that concept development and decision making should be done as a team.
Both directly and indirectly, the leaders made statements about monitoring trends and innovations, preparing for the future, and looking for new opportunities. Also brought up was the concept of being a change agent, by which the leader would be open to creativity, new ideas, different directions, and calculated risks.
Personal Motivations and Interests
The most consistent and heartfelt motivation for the virtual school leaders was their dedication to the students. These leaders were authentically concerned about the students, their learning, and their well-being. Some of the leaders expressed having previous enjoyment as a classroom teacher in a traditional school and view their leadership position as a continuation of that role. Others stated that they wished they had the opportunity to teach in an online setting. Other intrinsic incentives were the leadership role itself, working with curriculum and instruction, being on a leading edge of education, and facilitating education using technology.
These leaders maintained an arsenal of personal tactics, strategies, and methodologies that were used in addressing the large number of different leadership challenges and responsibilities. Their approaches were determined by the people, circumstances, limitations, and resources that were involved.
In addressing their virtual school leadership demands, the most common characteristics were for the leaders to be dynamic, adaptable, open, and agile.
Reflection Point – ““I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” ~Mother Teresa
Carreno, I. (2009). E-mentoring and e-leadership importance in the quality of distance and virtual education Century XXI. Retrieved from the Multimedia, Information and Communication Technologies in Education website.