Book Review Online Exclusive
For School Leaders
by Vicki Gunther, James McGowan and Kate Donegan, Rowman & Littlefield Education, Lanham, Md., 2011, 180 pp., $19.95 softcover
Through their collective reflective and intuitive lens honed by practical and professional school leadership, the authors of Strategic Communications For School Leaders have sifted through much research to contribute to the knowledge base, along with personal opinions based on practical experiences. Their focus is to ensure school leaders think strategically about communication.
The three authors consist of a former superintendent, a current superintendent and a former school board president.
One overarching lesson the authors learned in their respective work schedules was that the quality of a leader's communication depends largely upon the core values he or she espouses within the school and/or district.
A most visible premise of this book is the admonition that a successful district must have good strategic communications plan and that the plan must be supported by a commitment to more communication rather than less, openness instead of secrecy and a determination to listen as well as talk. Leaders must ask the right questions and seek good information, but to really gain trust, leaders must be willing to share feedback and to act upon what they learned. Leaders gain trust by communicating the personification of trust.
School leaders always will encounter critics, but the authors believe that a good listening leader can turn these detractors into advocates. As a listening, communicative leader, there are three valuable lessons to be learned from critics: You can always do your job better; good solutions and recommendations can come from anyone; and since your critics are most likely not going away, you are better off listening to them. You, the leader, are the public face and voice of your entity, so be respectful, be prepared and be responsive in your communications. Always know the facts before engaging the media in order to appear forthright and in command.
This book, explains its authors, was not written to be a manual showing how to spin, shift blame or lie, but rather was written to inspire its readers to think deeply about how their communications and their leadership role affect each other.
Reviewed by Leon T. Hobbs, president and CEO, Credentialed Leadership Consultants, Flowery Branch, Ga.