BEST PRACTICE AND EFFECTIVENESS OF LEADERSHIP WISDOM AMONG PRINCIPALS OF EXCELLENT SECONDARY SCHOOL MALAYSIA: PERCEPTIONS OF PRINCIPALS

 Mohamad Johdi Salleh, Nazifah Alwani Mohamad

International Islamic University Malaysia

johdisalleh@gmail.com

 Abstract

The purpose of the study is to examine the practices and effectiveness of leadership wisdom among the principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia. The respondents are 108 principals from selected excellent secondary schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and, Perak. The schools have demonstrated students’ excellent academic performance particularly in the Lower Secondary Assessment or Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) within three years from 2008 to 2010. The finding indicates that the principals highest practice of leadership wisdom with mean score 4.7222 was contributed by the item ‘I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement’. This item was rated as ‘frequently’ by 72.2% (78) of the principals and perceived as ‘fairly-often’ by 27.8% (30). Interestingly, the principals’ perception of effectiveness was highest also on the same item with mean 4.4722 and standard deviation 0.6088. It shows 52.8% (57) of the principals identified this item as ‘very effective’, 41.7% (45) as ‘effective’ and 5.5% (6) as ‘quite effective’. It is hope that the study would instigate educational leaders to enhance their practice and effectiveness in leadership wisdom to rigorously forward the institutions in realizing Vision 2020 and Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

 Keywords: principals of excellent schools – leadership wisdom

 INTRODUCTION

 The major trends of educational reforms consist of ensuring education quality, standards and accountability in educational institutions, implementing decentralization and school-based management, and, enhancing teacher quality and lifelong professional development. These trends of educational changes at different levels have changed nearly every key aspect of most educational systems in the region and had tremendous impacts on the context of educational leadership and its practice. The effectiveness of practices is essential for ensuring the student high academic achievements and overall schools performance. This is intuitively related to the aspiration of the Malaysian government to achieve the challenges of Vision 2020 and realization of the Malaysia Education Plan 2013-2025 (Quality and Strategic Unit, Ministry of Education Malaysia, 2012).

 School Leadership Wisdom

Stenberg (2002) states that wisdom is engaged insight or insightful intuition, openness, evolution, expansion, heightening, deepening, inclusiveness, far-sightedness, wholeness, awareness, feelings, knowledge, visions, stories, caring, encounters, involvements, choices and actions. It involves cooperation, interaction, dialogue, compassion, resilient, and all the other things that bring us together without losing our individual integrity, and, dignity. Certainly, these factors would enhance relationship, interconnectedness, wholeness, sacredness, love, and, togetherness which are highly essential in the effectiveness of leadership towards organizational success (Bush & Glover, 2003). It means that a leader should have comprehensive characteristics of wisdom, especially, far-sightedness, integrity, love and compassion in a holistic context, intelligence about relationships, recognition of the relativity of rightness, as well as deep responsibility for the consequences of one’s thoughts and actions including the subordinates (Whittington, 2010).

Wisdom can also be knowledge, statements or solutions that arise from such understandings and envisioned outcomes. Leadership wisdom emerges from creative interaction among diverse parties and perspectives, in co-creative service to the common benefit and goal of the organization (Saleh, 2002). Wisdom may be always potentially present in its transcendently whole state and accumulated collective form, accessible through reflective thought, attunement, conversation, understanding, and, collaboration which essential factors for the success and high achievement of organizational performance. Cooperation and collaboration among workers is a highly-rated virtue in Islam, as they could instill harmony and the rights of every individual within an organization (Al-Bureay, 1990). By instilling these values, job functions will run smoothly, as any conflict would be dealt collaboratively. As Allah SWT commands in the al-Maidah Chapter, verse 2 that means … ‘And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression.

It is clear that leadership wisdom is characterized by certain intellectual capability, wholeness, expansiveness, inclusiveness, depth, and spiritual presence in a person’s or culture’s engagement with individual life, particularly related to the school organization and overall environment. educational leadership should always demonstrates their intellectual wisdom, reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest, can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but he/she is strict towards its achievement, always hold on the values created together with the members of the school organization, and, always applies his/her knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole. Leadership wisdom should have the capacity to transcend limited perspectives towards greater and deeper understandings and broader, longer-term beneficial outcomes (Davies, 2005; Davies & Davies, 2010; Quong & Walker, 2010; Hofman & Hofman, 2011).

Hence, it is essentially important to conduct a study on the practices and effectiveness of leadership wisdom on the school achievement among the principals of secondary schools, particularly in Malaysia as perceived by the educational leaders.

Objective of the Study

 The aim of the study is to examine the practices and effectiveness of leadership wisdom among the principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia. The leadership in these schools has been observed in terms of the practices and effectiveness of the school principals leading towards the school achievement in accordance with the schools’ objective accordingly.

 Research Questions

 The study intent to answer the following research questions:

  1. How is the practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia as perceived by themselves?
  2. How do the school principals perceive the effectiveness of their leadership wisdom practices in schools?
  3. What is the best practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia?
  4. What is the most effective practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia?

Research Methodology

 The respondents are 108 principals from secondary schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and, Perak which have demonstrated excellent academic performance particularly in the Lower Secondary Assessment of Form Three within three years from 2008 to 2010 (State Department of Education Selangor, 2011).

Prior to the data collection process, the application for permission to conduct the research was obtained from the Director of Education, Planning and Research Division (EPRD), Ministry of Education, Malaysia and the Selangor State Education Division. It is very important to have these approvals as this study involves data collection from the selected government secondary schools (Ministry of Education EPRD, 2006).

Questionnaire was chosen for the data collection purpose because of its ability to survey a large sample in a short period of time at a lower cost is possible. This survey method is suitable for sensitive questions because the respondents’ identity will be kept confidential and thus encouraging them to give honest responses (Sekaran, 2000).

The data collected from the survey was analysed using the most commonly used statistical software package in the social sciences which is the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 17.0. The findings of the questionnaire employed descriptive statistics i.e. mean score, standard deviation and frequency count in order to analyse the demographic variables of the respondents, particularly the Principals (Krejcie & Morgan, 1970).

 Result of the Study

The following sections discuss the analysis and findings of the study.

 Research Question 1:

How is the practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia as perceived by themselves?

 The practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia as perceived by principals is presented in table 1 below.

Table 1: Principals’ Practice of Wisdom as Perceived by the Principals (n=108)

Item Mean

SD

Scale n Percent

(%)

I always demonstrate my intellectual wisdom. 4.2500

.6918

Sometimes 15 13.9
Fairly-often 51 47.2
Frequently 42 38.9
Total 108 100.0
I am reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest. 4.6823

.5443

Sometimes 4 3.7
Fairly-often 28 25.9
Frequently 76 70.4
Total 108 100.0
I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement. 4.7222

.4543

Fairly-often 30 27.8
Frequently 78 72.2
Total 108 100.0
I always hold on the values created together with the members of the school organization.  4.5833

.5542

Sometimes 3 2.8
Fairly-often 39 36.1
Frequently 66 61.1
Total 108 100.0
I always apply my knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole. 4.4634

.5652

Sometimes 5 4.6
Fairly-often 45 41.7
Frequently 58 53.7
Total 108 100.0

 SD: Standard Deviation

Scale: 1-Not at all, 2-Once in a while, 3-Sometimes, 4-Fairly-often, 5-Frequently

Table 1 shows that item ‘I always demonstrate my intellectual wisdom’ acquired mean score 4.2500 and Standard Deviation 0.6918. The following item ‘I am reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest’ acquired mean 4.6823 and Standard Deviation 0.5443. While item ‘I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement’ obtained mean 4.7222 and Standard Deviation 0.4543. Consequently, item ‘I always hold on the values created together with the members of the school organization’ acquired mean 4.5833 and Standard Deviation 0.5542. Item ‘I always apply my knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole’ obtained mean 4.4634 and Standard Deviation 0.5652.

Table 1 indicates that the principals highest practice of leadership wisdom with mean score 4.7222 was contributed by the item ‘I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement’. This item was rated as ‘frequently’ by 72.2% (78) of the principals and perceived as ‘fairly-often’ by 27.8% (30) from total respondents 108.

Research Question 2:

How do the school principals perceive the effectiveness of their leadership wisdom practices in schools?

The school principals perceive the effectiveness of their leadership wisdom practices in schools is presented in Table 2.

Table 2: Principals’ Effectiveness of Wisdom as Perceived by the Principals (n=108)
Item Mean

SD

Scale n Percent

(%)

I always demonstrate my intellectual wisdom. 4.1667

0.6094

Quite effective 12 11.2
Effective 65 60.2
Very effective 31 28.7
Total 108 100.0
I am reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest. 4.3056

0.5248

Quite effective 3 2.8
Effective 67 62.0
Very effective 38 35.2
Total 108 100.0
I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement. 4.4722

0.6088

Quite effective 6 5.5
Effective 45 41.7
Very effective 57 52.8
Total 108 100.0
I always hold on the values created together with the members of the school organization.  4.3647

0.5278

Quite effective 5 4.62
Effective 48 44.4
Very effective 55 50.9
Total 108 100.0
I always apply my knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole. 4.4444

0.6068

Quite effective 4 3.7
Effective 48 44.4
Very effective 56 51.9
Total 108 100.0

SD: Standard Deviation

Scale: 1-Not effective, 2-Rarely effective, 3-Quite effective, 4-Effective, 5-Very effective

Table 2 shows, the effectiveness of item ‘I always demonstrate my intellectual wisdom’ acquired mean score 4.1667 and standard deviation 0.6094. The item, ‘I am reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest’ obtained mean score 4.3056 and standard deviation 0.5249. Consequently, item ‘I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement’ displayed mean score 4.4722 and standard deviation 0.6088. While item, ‘I always hold on the values created together with the members of the school organization’ showed mean 4.3647 and standard deviation 0.5278. Finally, item ‘I always apply my knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole’ with mean score 4.4444 and standard deviation 0.6068.

Table 2 demonstrates, the most effective practice is represented by the item ‘I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement’. It contributed the highest mean score of 4.4722 with a standard deviation of 0.6088. 52.8% (57) of the principals identified this item as ‘very effective’, 41.7% (45) as ‘effective’ and 5.5% (6) as ‘quite effective’.

Research Question 3:

What is the best practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia?

The result of the study demonstrates that the principals’ practices were ‘very highly’ on all five items with mean above 4.000. These were supported by very high score on ‘Faily Often’ and ‘Frequently’ where four items achieved above 90.0% and only one item score 86.1%.

However, there were differences of principals’ wisdom highest practice score between perceptions of principals and senior assistants.

As demonstrated on Table 1, the principals perceptions of their highest practice of leadership wisdom with mean score 4.7222 was contributed by the item I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement. This item was rated as ‘frequently’ by 72.2% (78) of the principals and perceived as ‘fairly-often’ by 27.8% (30) from total respondents 108.

The second highest practice of leadership wisdom by the principals perceived by them was item I am reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest with mean 4.6823 and standard deviation 0.5443. The item was rated as ‘frequently’ 70.4% (76), ‘fairly often’ 25.9% (28) and ‘sometimes’ 3.7% (4) from overall 108 respondents.

Research Question 4:

What is the most effective practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia

The most effective practice of leadership wisdom as perceived by the principals themselves were represented by item I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement. It contributed the highest mean score of 4.4722 with a standard deviation of 0.6088. 52.8% (57) of the principals identified this item as ‘very effective’, 41.7% (45) as ‘effective’ and 5.5% (6) as ‘quite effective’ from the total of 108 respondents.

The second highest was item I always apply my knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school mean score 4.4444 and standard deviation 0.6068. The principal identified this item as ‘very effective’ was 51.9% (56), 44.4 (48) as ‘effective’ and 3.7% (4) as ‘quite effective’.

Meanwhile, the principals’ perceptions of leadership wisdom effectiveness among the principals were above mean 4.000. These were supported by very high score on ‘Faily Often’ and ‘Frequently’ where all five items achieved above 80.0%. The result indicates that the principals of excellent secondary schools Malaysia practice of leadership wisdom were ‘very highly effective’.

DISCUSSION

The result of the study demonstrates that the principals perceptions of leadership wisdom practice effectiveness among principals of excellent secondary schools was highest on item I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement and secondly on item I always apply my knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole. These were followed by items I always hold on the values created together with the members of the school organization, I am reasonable in balancing the individual interest of all members of the school organization with school interest, and, I always demonstrate my intellectual wisdom, respectively.

The overall result show, principals’ perception on leadership wisdom practice and effectiveness were very high and very effective. This indicates that the principals of excellent secondary schools in Malaysia practice ‘very highly’ and ‘very effectively’ the leadership wisdom in their organization.

This is in fact one of the important aspects which should be given high attention in order to reach tremendous accomplishment in the education system. Indeed, the subject of school leadership wisdom has attracted so much attention from the government around the world especially those who are embarking massive education reforms in their education system. The biggest problem faced by many of these countries is the realization of a wise school which is seen as an impetus not only to the success of the school but also to the national agenda of each country. The key to the wisdom is inevitably the quality of leadership in the school organization.

Regardless of any style applied, effective and wise leadership need to be able to prepare people to deal with the diverse situations in a pluralistic local situation and world at present. Skills are essential for effective leadership including social and interpersonal skills, active listening, facility in communication, presentation skills, group dynamics, goal setting, negotiation and conflict resolution.

The essential responsibility and accountability of educational leaders were on setting the new paradigm education, including teaching skills related to wisdom and transformation, both educating the youth, and lifelong adult education, experiential and multi-modal learning, education to recognize humanity as a living system embedded within larger natural living systems, which are embedded, in turn, within a far greater and fundamentally spiritual reality, a conscious, creative force, and, learn about love; foster altruism and generosity of spirit.

Finally, leaders need wisdom because they need creative and practical abilities to make their ideas functional, convince others of the value of their ideas, and, balance the effects of ideas on themselves, others and institutions in both the short and long run. There is a need to combine practical intelligence, analytical intelligence and emotional intelligence. This provides an insightful and challenging set of criteria for leaders to develop in order to deploy strategic choices with wisdom and effectiveness. Islam encourages all its adherents to acquire the necessary knowledge of things and specialization before executing any action or work. The Prophet advised: “Whoever wishes for the world need to have knowledge, whoever wishes for the hereafter need to have knowledge, whoever wishes for both need to have knowledge”. The Prophet essentially admitted, “if you grant a job to someone who is not knowledgeable, just wait for the destruction”. This is to prove the high significant of leaders to be knowledgeable, competent, and, wise.

CONCLUSION

The study concluded that the best practice of leadership wisdom among principals of excellent school as perceived by the principals themselves was highest item I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement. The senior assistants perceived highest on item The principal always applies his/her knowledge for the benefit of the members of the school organization and for school as a whole. While, the principals perceived that the most effective practice is represented by the item I can tolerate the implementation of period of strategy but I am strict towards its achievement. This is to ensure that all educational leaders practice leadership wisdom effectively to move forward the institution in the realization the National Key Result Area (NKRA) for Education, 1-Malaysia, the Vision 2020, and, new launched Malaysia Education Plan 2013-2025.

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