Peter Senge (I 990) first floated the concept of the learning organisation. According to him learning “organizations are where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

Peter Senge argues that learning organizations require a new view of leadership. In a learning organization, leaders are designers, stewards and teachers. They are responsible for building organizations where people continually expand their capabilities to understand complexity, clarify vision, and improve shared mental models. Here we will look at the three aspects of leadership that Senge identifies for building sustainable leaderships.

Leader as designer

The functions of design are rarely visible, Peter Senge argues, yet no one has a more sweeping influence than the designer. The organization’s policies, strategies and ‘systems’ are key area of design, but leadership goes beyond this. Integrating the five disciplines (systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, Building Shared vision and Team learning))  is fundamental. However, the first task entails designing the governing ideas – the purpose, vision and core values by which people should live. Building a shared vision is crucial early on as it ‘fosters a long-term orientation and an imperative for learning’. Other disciplines also-need to be attended to, but just how they are to be approached is dependent upon the situation faced. In essence, ‘the leaders’ task is designing the learning processes whereby people throughout the organization can deal productively with the critical issues they face, and develop their mastery in the learning disciplines’.

Leader as steward

Senge’s starting point was the ‘purpose stories’ that the managers he interviewed told about their organization. He came to realize that the managers were doing more than telling stories, they were relating the story: ‘the overarching explanation of why they do what they do, how their organization needs to evolve, and how that evolution is part of something larger’. Such purpose stories provide a single set of integrating ideas that give meaning to all aspects of the leader’s work – and not unexpectedly the leader develops a unique relationship to his or her own personal vision. He or she becomes a steward of the vision. One of the important things to grasp here is that stewardship involves a commitment to, and responsibility for the vision, but it does not mean that the leader owns it. It is not their possession. Leaders are stewards of the vision, their task is to manage it for the benefit of others. Leaders learn to see their vision as part of something larger. Purpose stories evolve as they are being told, ‘in fact, they are as a result of being told’. Leaders have to learn to listen to other people’s vision and to change their own where necessary. Telling the story in this way allows others to be involved and to help develop a vision that is both individual and shared.

Leader as teacher

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. While leaders may draw inspiration and spiritual reserves from their sense of stewardship, ‘much of the leverage leaders can actually exert lies in helping people achieve more accurate, more insightful and more empowering views of reality. Building on an existing ‘hierarchy of explanation’ leaders can influence peoples view of reality at four levels:

  • events,
  • patterns of behaviour,
  • systemic structures and
  • the purpose story.

Leaders in learning organizations concentrate to all four. Such leaders help people develop systemic understandings throughout the organization. Leader as teacher is not about teaching people how to achieve their vision. It is about fostering learning, for everyone. Accepting this responsibility is the antidote to one of the most common downfalls of otherwise gifted teachers losing their commitment to the truth. Leaders have to create and manage creative tension – especially around the gap between vision and reality. Mastery of such tension allows for a fundamental shift.

It enables the leader to see the truth in changing situations.


Source: IGNOU MES4 : Head Teachers as School Leaders

Published by rkdskool

I am working in the field of education for more than 15 years. I teach Math. Presently I'm Working as the vice principal in reputed School.

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