A Grounded Theory Study on Leaders Who Lead by Learning: Publically and Purposefully
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Although both management and leadership are needed in schools so that schools function efficiently and have leadership for continuous improvement, English (2012) reports that the majority of professional research and literature focuses on the management, rather than leadership, of learning. This grounded theory study examines the practices of three leaders, a retired urban principal, a suburban associate superintendent, and a rural mathematics coordinator, who lead by learning through their organizations. These leaders purposefully utilized shared problem-solving and shared decision-making through shared learning in a collective leadership paradigm purposefully fostering a learning culture within. The central question that guides the collection and analysis of the qualitative data is this: what are the practices implemented by leaders who lead by learning to create learning cultures for their organizations?
The qualitative data generated from interviews and observations of the three leaders is triangulated with the theoretical perspective of lifeworld and systemsworld borrowed from Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action and the theoretical perspective of the Chaos Theory. In this study these leaders use distributive power and a focus on collective learning to (a) create a collaborative culture, (b) share decision-making, and (c) build capacity. Fractals, representing self-similarity, are used as a metaphor to represent the learning culture created when the adults as well as students are learners within a district or campus. A network-type structure providing space for dialogue rather than a hierarchical structure allows for shared problem solving and decision-making and provides the opportunities for educators to self-organize rather than being managed by the leaders in this study. The findings from this study offer ideas for educational leaders who are purposefully developing learning cultures in their districts and campuses.