Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Authoritative -v- Authoritarianism

Such a huge difference between those two words!  Today I've been considering another of Gary Marx's 21 trends and also thinking about a conversation I had a few days ago with one of our teachers who has recently resigned and is looking for another job in a different part of the world.  It's a scary place to be - giving up a secure job for the unknown.  I remembered something that someone told me a little over 3 years ago when I was also looking for a new job:  when a door closes a window always opens, but until it does you are in a very dark place.  I remember being in that dark place well, though possibly what came before was even darker.

Last week in our Leadership PLC we were discussing the #1 reason why people break contract - it is because of their supervisor.  Having mulled over this for a whole week, and having read what Marx said about authority -v- authoritarianism, I feel a lot of empathy with those in this situation.  I guess everyone who has read my blog over the years I've been writing it, has seen a change.  Sometimes I meet people for the first time who have been following my posts and they say "Wow!  You're certainly in a much better place now"  (I think they mean mentally as well as simply that I have a much better job).  Marx writes about people who continue to work in organizations where new ideas are seen as threats and where the prevailing culture is "my way or the highway", where the leaders are authoritarian rather than authoritative.

Authoritative leaders are good news - people go to them for advice because of their knowledge and experience.
Authoritarian leaders are bad news - Marx refers to this as "a concentration of power in a way that is not responsible".  These people are dictatorial, domineering, arrogant, pretentious, controlling and narcissistic.  Here is a typical example:  at team leader meetings ideas were discussed, but the decision had already been taken.  Few people volunteered their honest opinions - those who did were "trouble makers".  Most said nothing.  Others simply said what those in charge wanted to hear.  Anyone with different opinions was "disloyal".  What happens in these situations?  Marx writes that "incompetence replaces excellence  ... the talented are often the first to leave since they have options."

Marx writes about a number of implications for education.  I've chosen to summarize the ones that I think are the 3 most important:
  • Students need to understand inclusive decision-making and how to legitimately use authority in achieving the common good.
  • Students should receive a grounding in principles that are basic to democracy.  They should understand empathy, human and civil rights and learn how to identify the benefits and consequences of their own actions, for themselves and others.
  • Teachers should be engaged in ongoing professional development in order to prepare to exercise legitimate future-focused leadership in a fast-changing world.
Photo Credit: Sarah G... via Compfight cc

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