Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sources of Authority

Thomas Sergiovanni defines the sources of authority in his book Moral Leadership as Bureaucratic, Psychological, Technical-rational, Professional, and Moral. Each of these sources has purpose, depending on where the organization is on a developmental level. If one were to look at these sources as a continuum, then selecting the correct source of authority might depend on where on the continuum the organization lies, with the note that selecting the incorrect level might have adverse effects on organizational effectiveness. Selecting a bureaucratic source when the organization is at a professional or moral level might make the staff feel micro-managed, while selecting a professional source when the organization is at a bureaucratic level might make the organization feel that the leader is aloof and not connected. To achieve the most effectiveness, it is important to use influence at the level of the organization to achieve the most impact.

When exercising influence at the bureaucratic level of authority, the leader manages the organization and provides direction for the organization. To improve instruction, curriculum and assessment at this level, the leader would be working with teachers, providing guidance and monitoring for followership. Attendance at workshops and development opportunities will be directed by the leader based on where the leader feels the organization and teacher needs to go. The leader has expectations and the organization must know their roles to achieve those expectations.

When leaders employ the psychological source of authority, they are working to make the organization a positive place to work, using their interpersonal skills to motivate the organization. When the organization wants to work for the leader and towards the leaders goals, they will follow the suggestions of the leader to improve teaching and learning.

When employing the technical-rational source of authority, the principal is the instructional leader, having more knowledge and skill, and expecting the organization to follow their authority because they have more training. This style can achieve increased teaching and learning if the leader actually does have more skills and knowledge of curriculum and assessment, they are willing to share that knowledge, and the staff are willing to learn.

As the organization demonstrates professional authority, the leader has experience and the staff have developed expectations. A word I use for this type of organization is a mature organization, on that has been together and developed together. the leader in this organization is a member of the organization on a flatter level, rather than hierarchical authority. To improve teaching and learning using professional authority, the leader has knowledge and expectations of the organization, but the organization has knowledge and expectations of the leader, forming a team approach to further their collective development.

The moral source of authority is a continuation of the professional source, but matured further, to the point of seeing the truth behind the work. The organization not only seeks to do the work correctly for teaching and learning, but seeks to do the right work for students and their development. The leader can increase teaching and learning using this form of authority by fostering discussions that delve deeper into the meaning of education, seek to expand what the organization can do for the students, and encourage teachers to take an active role in seeking solutions. The leader is among leaders, and their authority is derived from the knowledge that they are supportive and willing.

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