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Contingency and Situational Approaches to Educational Leadership  

Athanasia Tsolka

In the context of educational leadership, the application of contingency and situational theory underlines the importance of analyzing the current situation and the variables that affect the organization’s framework so that a manager can be effective. Whichever education system we are referring to, it is virtually meaningless to study leadership styles without recognizing the significance of the school context. School is a complex organization, an open system which appears to be a very uncertain environment. In order for leadership to be effective in this uncertain environment, the leaders should adopt a holistic approach. Many leaders avoid high uncertainty by applying standard operating procedures and making traditional bureaucratic responses in every case. Contingency and situational theory could give school leaders the opportunity for a solid basis in further refining management policies and practices. Contingency theory is based on the assumption that no single leadership style is appropriate in all situations. According to this theory, leadership style is quite inflexible. Thus, organizational effectiveness depends on matching internal organizational characteristics with environmental conditions. Therefore, effective leadership depends on whether the leader’s style matches the needs of the individual case. This theory applies better to educational systems where principal selection is done through an open recruitment process. One useful tool of this theory is contingency planning or forecasting. On the other hand, situational theory dictates that leaders adapt their style to match their staff’s characteristics and requirements. In education systems where the recruitment and selection of school principals lies with central government, situational theory can be a useful tool for the principals. When principals are placed in a new school, they should choose the best course of action based upon the current circumstances. Flexibility is key in managing a team effectively. The main difference between the two theories is that in the first case we put the right person in the right job while in the second leaders adjust their style depending on school context.

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Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and School Leadership in Action  

Tomoko Takahashi

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871–1944) was a geographer, elementary school teacher and principal, and educational reformer, who was active in the early-to-mid 1900s in Japan. As a school leader and scholar-practitioner guided by a passion for supporting teachers and improving education for the happiness of children, Makiguchi scrutinized pedagogy as a science and proposed a number of reforms of the Japanese education system, key elements of which, he believed, were failing teachers and students alike. His proposals included, among many: the establishment of standards of competency expected of school principals as well as a system of examination to uphold these standards; the abolition of a government-led school inspection system that pressured and restricted teachers from freely conducting teaching activities; and the establishment of an “education research institute” and an organization for the training of teachers. The growing number of modern educational scholars and practitioners paying attention to Makiguchi’s work and philosophy find his ideas not only valid and applicable to education in the 21st century but also remarkably innovative and insightful. His proposal for school leadership was still but a voice in the wilderness in the 1930s. It was also a bold and audacious attempt for him, especially at the time of the militarist regime. Makiguchi is often compared with his contemporary John Dewey (1859–1952). Evidently, Makiguchi and Dewey were both visionaries, passionate school leaders, and fearless reformers. Bearing this in mind, Makiguchi deserves much more attention than he has received thus far—at least as much as Dewey, if we are to balance the historical account of progressive education as a transnational phenomenon.