Roving Leadership

Last summer, a group of 38 Instructional Coaches and our Supervisors worked to develop a description for teachers and administrators of what the instructional coach role would entail. This is what we came up with:

Instructional Coach Role

I’ve been reflecting on this page lately.  I guess I’m doing a bit of a self-assessment actually.  Have I been this person in my schools this year and if so, to what degree?  What I like the most about this list, describing the role of the instructional coach, is that there is a recognition in it that learning is complex.  As is teaching… and leadership for that matter.

Recently, a principal lent me the book “Leadership is an Art” by Max Dupree.


In this book, there is a section about “Roving Leadership” that really struck a chord with me.  Here are a few things Dupree says about roving leadership:

1)  Roving leaders are those indispensable people in our lives who are there when we need them.

2)  In many organizations there are two kinds of leaders – both hierarchical leaders and roving leaders.

3)  Participation is the opportunity and responsibility to have a say in your job, to have influence over the management of organizational resources based on your own competence and your willingness to accept problem ownership.

4) No one person is the “expert” at everything.  But some people have special competences.

5) In special situations, the hierarchical leader is obliged to identify the roving leader, then to support and follow him or her, and also to exhibit the grace that enables the roving leader to lead.

6) It’s not easy to let someone else take the lead.

7) Roving leadership is the expression of the ability of hierarchical leaders to permit others to share ownership of problems.

8) When roving leadership is practiced, it demands that hierarchical leaders, roving leaders and followers be enablers of each other.

9) Leadership can be shared, but not given away.

10) Roving leadership, freely and openly practiced together, is the vehicle we can use to reach our potential.

I see a lot of roving leaders in the schools that I am working in.  I see wonderful administrators that are encouraging their teachers to delve deeply into their “problems of practice” through networks where teachers are engaging in collaborative inquiry.  At those tables, there are roving leaders. I observe groups of teachers working with administration to develop school improvement plans or to solve problems collaboratively.  Teachers leading edtech in their schools. I continually witness LST teachers conferencing with experts, parents and students.  Not to mention the “roving leaders” I witness everyday on Twitter…

And yes, Instructional Coaches also have the potential to be roving leaders in our schools.  In fact, I am incredibly fortunate to be working with so many growth minded teachers, administrators and supervisors this year:  they have enabled me to be a roving leader in my own way.  And I’m taking advantage of these opportunities.

Here is one example:

One of my schools has a lot of new teachers this year. As I listened to teachers this year, one thing that kept coming up were questions about classroom management.  And talk about complex – classroom management is very complex!  With the  permission of the admin, I decided to offer a five week book club at the school through the book “Creating Caring Classrooms” by Kathleen Gould Lundy and Larry Swartz.


I was really pleased when 6 teachers committed to the book club.  We kept it simple – one hour after school, one chapter at a time. I’m not endorsing this book as a “must have” either.  In fact, we borrowed copies of the book from colleagues of mine for our purpose!  But this book was a great springboard for deep and meaningful professional conversation about classroom management.  I love how the Chapters are broken up:  Building Community, Building Communication, Building Collaboration, Building Compassion and Confronting the Bully issue. There are many activities that are very similar to those described in “Tribes”.  One week, we invited a Mental Health TOSA to talk to us about Universal Supports – those things that help these students, but benefit all students (amazing!).  Administration also joined in on a few chats!  Perhaps the familiar faces in this group permitted more frank and open discussion – a “culture of learning” if you will.  Teachers exposed their vulnerabilities and we problem solved together, sharing instructional strategies and resources.  I was not an expert in the group either, I was reading alongside them.  It was a really neat group – and I’m sad that it’s over!

My supervisor Sue Bruyns posted this on her Twitter feed this week:


This is absolutely true of classroom management.  But I’m looking at it and I’m thinking you can also replace “Teaching”, “students” and “classroom” with “Leadership”, “teachers” and “school” respectively.

So, how are you a “roving leader” in your school and what are you doing to create a culture of learning?  

What are you doing to build community, communication, collaboration, compassion and confront the bully not just in your classroom, but in your school?

Instructional coaches are not the only coaches in the building after all…

These are just a few things I’m wondering this week.

One Response

  1. Dawn Telfer at |

    You certainly are a roving leader, and a great one. I think that Teacher-Librarians can be great roving leaders too, especially when allowed to have flexible schedules. So thankful that you lead discussions on creating community. Such an important part of what we do every day.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar