Crisis Management: Effective School Leadership to Avoid Early Burnout
reviewed by Amanda Taggart - November 29, 2021
Title: Crisis Management: Effective School Leadership to Avoid Early Burnout
Author(s): Larry Dake
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham
ISBN: 1475859554, Pages: 110, Year: 2021
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Dr. Larry Dakes book Crisis Management: Effective School Leadership to Avoid Early Burnout opens with the idea that school leadership is inherently stressful due to the increased responsibility that comes with managing the wellbeing of many individuals within a large system. However, school leaders can traverse such work-related stress and combat the oft-accompanying burnout by applying explicit strategies focused on improved worklife balance and self-care. The author promises to incorporate, through 10 short chapters, research-based methods and insights from novice and veteran school leaders gleaned from interviews and a survey centered on sources of work stress and on- and off-the-job practices to combat occupational stress, burnout, and overload. Doing so, he states, will in turn improve school organizations, as a healthy school leader has a dramatic impact on a healthy school community (p. vii). The author also relays his feeling that educational leadership preparation programs do not focus enough on this issue.
The first chapter provides a brief sketch of one educational administrators career trajectory and introduces three themes to be explored throughout the book: 1) navigating transitions, 2) professional fit, and 3) relationships. The next chapter briefly outlines the history of school leadership over the past century in order to demonstrate how the principalship has evolved from that of a principal teacher in the 1920s to the catchall position that it is today, the pressures of which often lead to burnout and mental health challenges. Chapter 3 identifies school leadership stressors from the literature as well as from the authors own survey of practicing educational administrators. It then explains how leaders should work to identify their own particular occupational stressors and reflect on approaches that may assist in allaying them, ideally within a mentoring program. The chapter also discusses how certain transformational leadership practices can improve stress levels.
Chapter 4 describes the necessity of creating relationships of trust with all members of the school community, including teachers, staff, students, and parents. In this chapter, the author utilizes interview responses from educational leaders in order to provide strategies for building trusting relationships across the broader school community. The following chapter continues to explore interview and survey data as the leader respondents identified important aspects to balancing their work and home lives, such as family dynamics and supervisory support, and offers several items school leaders should consider in the pursuit of worklife balance. On these topics, the author also differentiates between the perceptions of building- and district-level leaders and female and male leaders.
Chapter 6 explains why the principalship can be isolating and lonely, and suggests that to diminish such feelings, leaders should work to curtail them among all school employees. According to the author, this will benefit the school leader as well as the staff, stating, Research has demonstrated that employees who feel valued are more likely to engage in organizational citizenship behaviors, such as participating in nonpaid or extra-time activities that, while not formally part of anyones job, contribute to an organizations well-being (p. 44). In the subsequent chapter, interview and survey participants offer advice to educators contemplating careers in school leadership. They emphasize that candidates should have clear ideas about why they would like to pursue such a career path and they caution against making such a decision based on monetary rewards. They also encourage prospective administrators to develop thick skins and to practice engaging in difficult conversations as they highlight the frequency and necessity of such conversations for those in leadership positions.
Chapter 8 provides information on the data-collection procedures and the participants who responded to the survey addressed in the book. Participants were recruited and the survey was accessed via social media. Data on the respondents is lacking, as we are not given the exact number of participants or their particular job titles and other useful descriptive information. Overall, 13 participants were interviewed, though no information was given about the interview questions. In addition, the number of survey respondents was not specified. Although we do not know exactly how many participants there were, we are told that 50% were in the first three years of their current positions and that this encompassed the overall administrative experience for many of them although, among those, they had between 1 and 19 years total administrative experience. Moreover, 39% of respondents practiced leadership at the district level, though superintendents were not included in the sample, and we are not given a breakdown of the percentage of building-level administrators who were principals versus those who were assistant principals. More female leaders (56%) than male leaders responded to the survey. Additional information provided included two broad age ranges of respondents as well as their marital status and the age ranges of their children. More detailed information on the interview questions and the participants, as well as the inclusion of this information near the beginning of the book, would have been helpful in evaluating the responses included, especially considering that much of the book is premised on these responses.
Chapter 9 advises school leaders to reflect on one source of occupational stress, time management, and provides three tools to help plan and prioritize work time. The last two chapters are described as toolbox chapters. Chapter 10 focuses on factors to consider when deciding which administrative positions to apply for, sources from which to determine professional fit for an organization, and goals for and items to include in an entry plan for a new position. A sample entry plan is also included. Finally, Chapter 11 lists six books that the author believes supports the themes discussed in his book. There is also an appendix that provides the actual survey instrument he used.
Although the title of the book refers to managing a crisis, the book should not be mistaken for a guide to navigating large and/or urgent crises facing school leaders such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, this is a book that provides personal insights from practicing educational leaders on long-term professional interests such as the importance of selecting administrative positions that provide the right fit between individuals and organizations, and furnishes ideas for managing worklife balance in order to cope with the inevitable stress that comes with a leadership position. Prospective school leaders may find this book most useful as they consider whether or not administration is the career path they want to take, as it provides ideas to consider when choosing this trajectory, advice for selecting a position that will provide the best fit for and balance between ones professional and personal lives, and tips for applying and interviewing for leadership positions.
Dake, L. (2021). Crisis management: Effective school leadership to avoid early burnout. Rowman & Littlefield.
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