Linda Lambert explores shared purpose and the crucial link between teaching, leading and learning in this interview. Dr. Lambert is the author of several important books on Leadership Capacity, which, she says, is dependent on understanding the connection between participation and skillfulness. Dr. Lambert’s vision of leadership focuses on an organizational approach that reflects the importance of engaging all constituent voices — principal, student, teacher, and parent in improving schools. The following is an abridged version of our interview with Linda Lambert.
Q: How do you define leadership and how is it connected to learning?
Linda Lambert: Leadership is about learning together toward a shared purpose. Traditional notions of leadership that attach it to, let’s say, just the principal, really shut out everyone else, specifically the teachers, parents and students.
When an approach to learning is toward a shared purpose, individuals are constructing knowledge and meaning together through inquiry, through dialogue, through coaching, through action. They are investing in each other as well in the vision of the school, and this is fundamental to my definition of leadership capacity. Leadership is a form of learning that moves the community towards their shared purpose.
Q: Can you define Leadership Capacity for us?
Linda Lambert: Let me start by saying that Leadership Capacity as I have tended to define it is an organizational concept. We are talking about the leadership capacity of the school, of the district, of the organization.
We also think of leadership capacity of the individual and that’s important too, but as I speak of it today, I’m talking about leadership capacity of the whole. And we’ve learned that it is the basis for sustainability, for several reasons, but perhaps the number one reason is that when a principal leaves, it’s essential that a web or fabric of leadership remain behind if we’re to sustain the work of the school.
There are probably three evolutionary stages to getting there. We know what a poor school looks like and we tend to know what a good school looks like, but getting from here to there is really the issue. The three stages we’ve discovered — that have to do with principal behaviors and teacher behaviors — are the instructive phase, the transitional phase and the high leadership capacity phase.