Leadership starts with ‘self’ and only after we take a journey of self-discovery we are able to become effective, when leading others. In their book Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Personal Journey Begins Within Terrell and Lindsey (2009) developed a comprehensive and interactive guide for the development of cultural awareness and social responsibility that are critical for education in the contemporary world. The authors provide a step-by-step guide to discovery of ‘self’ through the idea of cultural autobiography. The core argument and learning point of the first chapter of the book is the understanding of three elements. First of all, our personal view on the school environment and our capacity to see and reflect on diversity. Second learning point is the introduction to the issues of equity and development of skills to identify, analyze the historical and social causes of ‘equity issues’ and the means and the ends of the equity issues, such as race, sexual orientation and reflection. The authors raise such critical question as the role of communication, conflict and emotional management and other aspects of our daily interpersonal relationships and highlight the role of self-education and autobiography in building self-effectiveness as culturally proficient leaders.
Another work that should be considered in view of culturally relevant leadership is the study of the culturally proficient leadership in a historical concept of the educational environment. Johnson (2006) explores culturally progressive and responsible school practices of Gertrude Elise MacDougald Ayer, the first African-American principal in the history of the United States. The author summarizes the objectives of his work as a threefold: restore the legacy of a leader, analyze the progressive nature of Ayer´s leadership in political and social context of the fourth decade of the 20th century and, finally, bring forward some basic principles of the culturally responsible school leadership. The journey through the article takes the reader through the life of this remarkable woman and illustrates the evolution of her thoughts, position and socio-cultural views. Further, Johnson (2006) provides a set of evidence and argument to support his thesis on the culturally responsible profile of Ayer´s leadership. The conclusions, presented by the study outline several major lessons that can be applied to the contemporary concept of school leadership. First of all, the author argues that a school leader is a public intellectual. Secondly, he outlines the role of leader in curriculum innovation. Finally, Johnson (2006) concludes that a school leader is a social activist.
Social environment is a complex set of disperse individual perceptions that are influenced by a variety of factors. These factors include cultural, racial, economic and social diversity and create numerous challenges in building equity. Every individual is part of the social group and he or she are equally restricted by this group as well as influence the identity of their social environment. With that in mind, the relationships that we have with society are mutual and the manner in which we develop our social roles depends on the freedom that we have and the limitations that the freedoms of other people around us set. The reality of contemporary social environment, our schools and our community is that the role of minority and majority is still significant and to be able to become effective as a leader in this diverse environment it is crucial to understand the sets of beliefs and experiences that each of these groups represents. Education is the pillar of social health and the ability to accompany the increasing complexity of social and cultural profile with relevant innovative and creative practices is crucial. Such elements, as Understanding by Design framework and other educational methodologies, looking at diversity at school, are the first steps to culturally relevant practices. There is a long way before, leadership in the educational environment will become truly effective from diversity perspective.
Terrell, R. D., & Lindsey, R. B. (2009). Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Personal Journey Begins Within. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Johnson, L. (2006). “Making Her Community a Better Place to Live:” Culturally Responsive Urban School Leadership in Historical Context. Leadership and Policy in School, 5, 19-36.