When we think of leaders, images come to mind of individuals who possess high-level knowledge, power, skills, attitudes, and behaviors capable of inspiring others and marshalling resources to move things forward. New thinking suggests that leadership is not the sole province of individuals; rather, it can be seen as an action involving the collective contributions of interested parties. When viewed as a collective, results- oriented effort involving earnest participation by multiple stakeholders sharing a common goal, impactful leadership is more the result of collaborative engagement than hierarchical structures or individual assignments.
Technical challenges may be solved easily by experts and leaders, but some issues are too large or complex for one person or agency to resolve. More challenging problems require an inclusive, adaptive response involving those who are closest to the situation working collectively (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002). Capitalizing on aligned contributions of many increases the likelihood of creating solutions that are effective, efficient and sustainable.
As researchers and practitioners have learned, when leaders and organizations engage in a planned cycle of results-focused steps to address adaptive challenges, seemingly intractable problems can be resolved. Collective Leadership does not occur by accident nor do results occur by chance. Both result from engaging committed, competent parties in an intentional, disciplined approach built upon a shared, transparent framework with defined goals and steps. Organizational leadership within a state or local education agency is also essential in order to bring to bear its resources and potential as a fully contributing partner where synergistic results are greater than the sum of individual contributions.
To assist state and local early education leaders in understanding and leveraging Collective Leadership this section examines key areas of Collective Leadership Frameworks, Organizational Leadership, the Collective Leadership Cycle, and Helpful Tools.