Leading with Spirit
Sensing a new impulse in leadership and governance of Waldorf Schools
We are entering a new phase in the development of Waldorf education in North America: the relationship between the administrative work and the pedagogical work of the school is changing. We can see the signs that the old imagination of what was termed a “teacher- run” school is no longer effective and a new possibility is emerging. Schools are seeking to create a pedagogically and anthroposophically inspired administrative group working in true spiritual collaboration with the teachers, and supported by an anthroposophically inspired, policy-oriented Board.
The social form of the Waldorf School arose, not from Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical work, but from his lifelong work on the inner aspect of the social question and the true nature of social life - and it came into practice in the Waldorf School through his years of leadership as he worked with the staff of the original school. Both of these culturally transforming streams, the pedagogical and social, have developed and matured over the past 100 years. There is a new possibility and opportunity to weave the streams together in an impulse for spiritual collaboration that could guide the future development of Waldorf schools in our culture. To achieve this ideal, we must overcome several obstacles.
- One of the factors influencing the development of healthy administration in Waldorf schools is the shortage of trained teachers across the continent. A new generation of teachers is not flowing into the schools that would allow experienced teachers, with social and administrative capacities, to step into administration. The lack of qualified teachers creates a situation where experienced teachers are needed in the classroom longer, to teach, to provide training and support for practicing teachers, and to provide pedagogical leadership in the faculty circle. As a result, experienced teachers remain in the classroom and are not able to bring their practical experience fully into administrative leadership positions without draining the faculty.
- In addition, administrative staff with an understanding of the social impulses arising out of anthroposophy and Waldorf education are difficult to find. Many administrative positions are filled by good people who do not have an adequate orientation to the overall spiritual, pedagogical and social dynamics of the school or the necessary support to help them be successful. The result has been marked: significant turnover in administrative staff, growing anxiety at the board level in many schools leading boards to institute reforms that appear practical but have no relationship to the social ideals of Steiner (policy governance, hiring heads of school, as examples), and unreasonable administrative burdens continually placed on teachers. Our schools often experience a lack of human and financial resources to provide the training and support needed by administrative leaders to be highly successful.
- Independent, self- financed schools require significantly more time to manage and operate, and are frequently understaffed, leaving little time or resources for training and professional development. The practical demands and resources required to run a school outweigh the good intentions to provide deepening opportunities for administrative staff and pedagogical leaders. Yet without the inspiration and support provided by an understanding of the guiding principles that inform the pedagogy and our work together, staff often leave in exhaustion or disillusionment.
- Schools often rely on consultants with backgrounds in organizational development that typically lack knowledge of Waldorf schools and culture and the guiding principles informing our work together. Our Schools require organizational development that is rooted in anthroposophy and an understanding of the social questions of our time. General ideas and approaches from outside the movement can be helpful but are not sufficient for long-term success.
- Unspoken expectations of administrative and school leaders, power conflicts, patterns of undermining or sabotaging leadership within some schools, lack of clarity and agreement about roles and responsibilities, all contribute to the revolving door that is all too common in the administrative realm of many of our schools.
Here are a few guiding thoughts for how the Waldorf school movement could support schools in taking this transformative step to a stronger and more integrated administrative life.
- Support everyone working in the schools to understand ans see the connection between both the educational and social impulses that Rudolf Steiner brought forth.
- Create and support new, widely accessible training for administrative staff equivalent to foundation studies in teacher training, designed specifically to inform their work in the schools out of Anthroposophy.
- Ensure that existing teacher preparation programs offer a much greater exploration of, and exposure to, the social insights, principles and practices of Rudolf Steiner and their practical applications in a school.
- Encourage networks for administrative staff to connect around questions of how the practical work of administration and governance can be inspired by, and reflect, the social and pedagogical insights of Anthroposophy.
- Make a significant investment in board resources and development to provide practical imaginations of how governance can work out of anthroposophy.
The seeds of this work have been planted over the last 10 years by independent initiatives that are growing in the Waldorf School movement across the world evidenced by:
- Websites and social media groups dedicated to collaboration between administrative leaders in schools such as Waldorf Admin Central, Waldorf Marketing Group, ANA (Admin Network of AWSNA) Basecamp groups and the LeadTogether.org resource collection
- Increased activities of ANA, the Administrative Network of AWSNA
- Greater focus of activities from AWSNA and other national associations around anthroposophically inspired school administration
- Emerging new anthroposophically inspired training programs for administrative staff such as Antioch’s Waldorf Administration and Leadership Development program and the Leading with Spirit Administration and Leadership Program and summer seminars
- New articles, books and other resources focusing on anthroposophically inspired school organization and dynamics such as Partnerships of Hope by Chris Schaefer
- A new widely read Waldorf related newsletter, Waldorf Today
- A transformed website and resource site for Waldorf Schools through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
- A renewal of the shared principles of Waldorf schools based on the anthroposophical Waldorf ideals articulated by the Pedagogical Section Council of North America
- A new anthroposophical and Waldorf centered administrative training program in China
These are all promising developments. The factors influencing the growth and development of collaborative spiritual leadership in the schools are numerous. Identifying and understanding them is an important step in moving towards a more resilient school movement.
In order to achieve successful collaboration, however, we need to develop new competencies that go beyond knowledge of Steiner’s ideas about education or the social sphere. Intellectual understanding is only valuable when it leads to changes in our thinking, behavior and attitudes – when both teachers and administrators feel that their unique contributions are seen and valued – and when building and maintaining trust are priorities within the organization.
Along with deepening the work of administration comes the additional challenge of bringing the cherished goals of the classroom into the Administrative Group, the Coworker Circle, the College of Teachers and the Board of Trustees. In our leadership roles, do we strive to be worthy of imitation? Do we play fair, refrain from gossip, assume the best, and ask questions rather than jump to conclusions? Are we always helpful and kind? Do we practice observation? Are we awake and able to respond to what is living in the school now - or are we focused on a fixed solution, or caught in repeating the dynamics of the past? In order to be successful at collaborative leadership we need to strive for the freedom that is developed in meditative practices; to prefer listening over our own speech, to sense the work of the unseen world, and to draw on imagination, inspiration and intuition.
We know that anthroposophically aligned boards, Waldorf trained and experienced administrative staff, and administratively capable teachers that understand the social organizational ideals of Waldorf education make all the difference in the health and success of school administrative life. The results of these strengths can be seen in practice in healthy schools across the continent.
The key to success of Waldorf schools in the coming years lies in the in the hands of current school leaders. The economic and social challenges for independent educational institutions like Waldorf schools will continue to become more difficult in the coming years. It is incumbent on us as school leaders to continually strive to find the balance between maintaining the good practices needed to sustain the institution effectively, and heeding the inspirations needed to sustain our mission, which arise out of true collaboration with each other and with our spiritual helpers. Sharing insights and experiences, asking the right questions, and actively supporting one another in a spirit of community, not just within our individual schools but also as a movement, are needed measures for Waldorf Schools to continue to be socially renewing institutions.
“Nothing else will do”, Rudolf Steiner says, “if our courage is not to fail. We must discipline our wills and seek the awakening from within ourselves every morning and every evening.” This inner discipline, self-responsibility and awakening can lead us to re-imagine our work together as a community of servant leaders dedicated to doing our part in the radical, social renewal of our world.
Leading with Spirit.org
What are the natural developmental phases of spiritually based communities and organizations? Bernard Lievegoed, one of the leaders of organizational development work and long-time Director of the Anthroposophical Training Organization, NPI, in Holland, wrote “ The Developing Organization" in 1973. In 1988 he offered a new booklet to clarify his thoughts about the difference between the phases that economic businesses and educational institutions go through. Lievegoed offers that spiritually focused organizations involved in human development don’t follow the typical phases of pioneer, administration and integration, but develop in a much more organic fashion, from their early development through growth and into maturation. This new booklet, “Institutions of the Spiritual Life” helps us to better understand how the growth and development of our institutions unfold over time. We have added the booklet into our resource collection for you. Find it here.
Keep in touch,
A new imagination of organizational form and function in a Waldorf school
After years of working in and with Waldorf schools, I have found that the imaginative thinking about the governance and organizational structure of a school is key to the school having a wholeness. Since each school is independent and unique, and is responsible for creating itself over time, the key to organizational health rests with the capacity of the leadership at any given time to build an imagination of the organization and from this imagination to find insights that can guide thinking about the challenges faced by the school at its unique phase of development. What has developed for me through many conversations is a thinking process that leads to an organic evolving imagination that can fit an organization at any phase of its growth and in any situation.
I have been in many schools over the last 20 years and have found that the many attempts to describe the organization using diagrams rarely if ever yields any real insight into the life of the organization and how to manage the operations. With various groups, I have gone through a process of building an imagination of the school which brings new ideas, a new sense of relationship, responsibility and helps identify key areas needing attention.
From the whole to the parts
A Waldorf school is a living organization involving many people who each have their own relationship to the endeavor, and who find themselves in groups that have particular roles and responsibilities – all important to the overall function and health of the organism. The school itself is part of its community, an endeavor to create a place where parents can find common ground and inspiration about the care and nurturing of their children. It is also a part of the evolving landscape of the educational community, the non profit community, the philanthropic community and the neighborhood where it resides. As a unique part of the community in which it lives, like any organism in its environment, it needs connection to everything around it for support and nourishment, and some separation from what lives around it for protection and identity.
Like any organism, it has three basic conversations ongoing. First, it has the conversation with itself about its own development – what is its mission, how shall it operate and reflect upon its own life. In this conversation it should be completely free to make its own way, to seek its own light and learn its own lessons. Just like a human being, it is responsible for making its own decisions and judgements and acting accordingly. Secondly it has the conversation with the other institutions and culture around it – how is it connected to other Waldorf shools, to other independent schools, to the government, to its neighbors. In this conversation it should be guided by the agreements it has with others – from being part of the association of Waldorf schools to filing taxes to adhering to fire codes to adhering to state regulations. In this realn it is important that it remembers that it is an equal part of the social fabric and that it has agreements to uphold. Thirdly, the school has a conversation with the earth itself – how it sustains itself, maintains buildings and garners the resources needed to assure its continued existence. This conversation is guided by mutuality – it provides parents with care and nurturing of their children in exchange for financial and personal support, it provides a service to the educational community and receives gifts and resources, it supports many vendors and service providers in exchange for their support.
These three conversations, while essential to any organization, have special significance in a Waldorf school. From the beginning of the first school in 1919, emphasis was placed on the importance of organizing the school from the inside out – that the first conversation, the internal one about its own direction and purpose rooted in self reflection, was the one that should guide the quality of the other conversations, the more outer ones. And this was rooted in the striving of the individuals in the school to be developing themselves. Both the work with the students and the work in organizing the school depend on the inner work of the people involved in the endeavor – their capacity for self reflection. The school was reminded this over and over again – that to be healthy and creative in its task, the individuals must be actively striving towards self-understanding. And this self understanding can come about only when an individual has an active contemplative practice aligned with the impulse of Anthroposophy. But as we know concerning our capacity for nurturing our development, we need help from each other. We are not in a time in history when an individual can develop independently. That means that the work in the school must be guided by processes that allow for individuals to remain independent and free but to seek and explore insights in such a way that their own development is furthered.
From the beginning of Waldorf education and Waldorf schools it has been of the utmost importance for the groups within the school to work within themselves and with each other in ways that seek and explore insights. This requires continual practice. At a simple level this would be expressed at meetings by saying a verse, reading something together, reviewing meetings, having regular meetings between groups and having a clear system of regular conversations between colleagues about their work. But these are just the surface. The work of each group needs to evolve as it seeks both common ground and meaningful ways to support the development of each person in the group. And here is where the faculty as a whole is essential to the work throughout the school. The work of the faculty in meaningful self reflection and the application of insight into the many operations of the school is truly like a heart of the school with the circulation being the sharing of insight as nourishment.
How faculties are prepared and able to do this work is a question. One learns this essential work by doing it, by participating in it. And as the task of holding a class and teaching becomes more and more challenging over time, the amount of energy and time left to spend in deeper work in the faculty as a group is diminished. We are faced with a situation in which there is less time and energy to do deeper work that is essential to the health of the organization. The result is often weakened operations and greater need for outside intervention as the organization is less and less able to meet the demands put upon it. It is a dilemma that when one is ill, one often has the least capacity to heal oneself – too often one must attend to the secondary effects rather than the root cause.
So how does a school potentize its work on seeking the inspired consciousness it needs?
Start with an imagination of a class – we have a teacher dedicated to the growth and development of the students gathered around her. The students (purple) are in the center in the care of the teacher (yellow), surrounded by their parents (light blue) and held in a vessel (red) by the whole faculty and staff.
Now place classes next to each other in a ring. This would create the teachers in a circle with an inner space free from the students and parents surrounded by the classes and parents. What is living between the teachers might be viewed as a kind of sun that radiates out into the classrooms.
Now we notice that between the classes there are areas that are empty, that we could designate as “the school.” What is it that connects the classes into a whole? In this we could add festivals, assemblies and all activities that involve more than one class.
In this evolved picture one can see the inner realm of the teachers. This space is extremely important to the health of the school. Much has been written about the role of the faculty, the ways the teachers can work together to create harmony and effective working, and the relationship between the faculty and the rest of the organism. In the faculty it is important to note the different task that the class teachers and subject teachers have. One is tasked with guiding the journey of a grou p of students, and the other is tasked with helping all the students make strides in relationship to a subject. How these tow are woven together has a significant effect onteh students and the whole school.
In this picture one can also see that the parents surrounding the classes create a supportive substance around the educational work. In this outer layer, a skin is formed that allows for the organism to have identity and protection. In addition, the skin could be seen as semi permeable and allowing nourishment in and letting out toxins.
Now in the area outside the classes and within the skin we have organs that form to help the overall organism to function. Over time more organs are needed to manage the flow of communication, manage the flow of resources and care for the growing structure of the whole organism. Classes need designated spaces, and structures, and tools that all need to be maintained.
In this figure, we have processes from five realms:
Board processes – like that of skin:
Protection (legal issues)
Nourishment (resources and sustainability)
Identity (mission and vision, evaluation )
Interaction with environment (ambassadorship, community relations)
Sensing imbalance and supporting functions
Administrative processes – like that of internal fluids and organs
Managing flows of money
Supporting activities of teachers, parents and all organs
Community building in the whole
Faculty Processes – like that of the heart
Tending to students
Collaboration in faculty
Sensing the whole and the parts
Student Processes – like that of the cells
Playing, working, learning and growing
Parent Processes, like that of the lungs
Connecting and exchanging with the world
In each of these realms, there is a need for an organizing principle or a leading activity.
In the parent realm this can be the class parents in a grade who develop their own structure of support (class rep or class helper) and for the whole parent body it is usually a parent council or parent organization. Its purpose is often to assure that each parent finds their rightful place in the school in which their talents and capacities can best contribute to the whole. It has a second purpose of assuring that the parents as a whole are organized to be best involved in the community building of the school.
In the faculty realm it is two fold : the sections (EC, GS , HS) and the core group, college or leadership team that acts on behalf of the whole.
In the admin realm it is often one or a few administrators tasked with assuring the healthy flow and organization of the administrative realm.
In the board it is the officers and the board development group tasked with helping the board as a whole continue to develop.
In the students it is the classes. In the older sections of the school it can be a student leadership group or council.
Because the organism is an integrated whole, (even thought it might not feel like it at times), every organ (parent council, board, faculty, admin, committees) is connected intimately to the whole and is a microcosm of the whole. Every organ has its own skin, it own identity, its own creativity, its own responsibility for communication etc. all purposefully aligned with the whole organism.
Now we have an overall picture of the organism that can speak to us and with which we can have a conversation.
What happens when a class become weak? What happens when a teacher can’t teach any longer? What happens when the faculty as a group is not able to work toether in such a way as to provide inspiration and insight that can guide the whole organism? Or when they isolate themselves from the rest of the organism and create their own skin that lacks permeability? What dynamic appears when an organization fails to renew its vision? Or when parents who are an integral part of the organism don’t identify with the mission of the school or follow healthy school processes?
Many of the dynamics alive in schools that I have worked with, when seen in the context of a living picture, can be understood more completely and dealt with in relationship to a sense of the whole.
The school is a living organism, that has living processes that function in service to the primary task of the whole – to care for, nurture and guide the development of children who come to the school, to provide support and encouragement to the parents who bring them and to build a conscious community that is committed to the understanding and practice of a new view of what it means to be a realized human being and to be a community.
(Further exploration of the physiology of the organism can be helped by looking at other resources.)
In another article, there is an outline of what aspects of this organism are unique to Waldorf school and what are more general to schools, non profits and businesses. The purpose here is to provide a living picture of a school organism that moves our thinking away from dead diagrams and towards new imaginations and questions.
What I have found important in a picture like this, is that it places the classes and students in the center and the faculty in the center and shows the space required by the faculty from which can radiate the insight needed to sustain the whole organism. This picture allows us to see an image of the healthy social life given to the first school as an imagination for moving forward.
Vision in Action: Working with Soul and Spirit in Small Organizations, by Christopher Schaefer and Tino Voors.
Organizational Integrity: How to apply the Wisdom of the Body to Develop Healthy organizations, by Torin Finser.
Social Development Insights of Rudolf Steiner in Waldorf School Administration and the new Leading with Spirit Training program starting this summer.
(In this essay, Michael Soule and his colleagues in the Leading with Spirit training program, discuss the evolution of both the role of the administrator and Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas in Waldorf School’s in the United States over the past 30 years. This article also introduces the people and the ideas behind the new Leading with Spirit administrative training starting this summer sponsored by the Waldorf Institute of SE Michigan, WISM and hosted by Alkion Institute in NY and the Whidbey Island Waldorf School in Washington State.)
In 1986, when I, (Michael Soule) was hired as the administrator of the Seattle Waldorf School, the idea of an administrator in a Waldorf school was still new. Of the few established schools in the Northwest, in Vancouver B.C. and Eugene, OR, there was just one other administrator. I remember the many hours we spent on the phone (yes, long distance) sharing stories and ideas.
What would happen in the 20 years between 1980 and 2000 was akin to a mini educational explosion. In the Northwest region alone, we went from having a single school in Portland, Eugene, Vancouver and Seattle to sprouting 25 new schools – nine within an hour and a half of Seattle. Across the continent, some hundred new schools were founded!
Today a Waldorf school without an administrator is a rarity. The question is: where are these administrators coming from and how do they receive training that will help them succeed in the unique Waldorf organizational culture?
While Waldorf teacher trainings began sprouting up across the country in the ‘80s, there were only two courses that provided professional development for administrative staff until 1993. One was a week-long offering during the spring semester of the Sunbridge year-long teacher training course and the other was a year-long seminar at the Social Development Center at Emerson College. (Both of these programs were developed by Chris Schaefer, a Waldorf graduate, consultant, author and trainer.)
Also in the late ‘80s, a number of leading thinkers in the Waldorf movement gathered regularly at Rudolf Steiner College, in Fair Oaks, CA, to exploring themes of Waldorf school organization, finances, economic life and other social and organizational issues. Participants at these conferences pondered upon what an anthroposophically inspired organization looked like and what were considered the core principles and guiding imaginations that might help a school thrive both as an independent school and as a center of cultural renewal.
I attended a number of these gatherings and the week-long seminar at Sunbridge. Then, after fives years as the Seattle Waldorf School administrator, I took a year off both to travel and to study at the Social Development Center in England. In the following years, I took on the various roles of Waldorf teacher, consultant, AWSNA executive and again a school administrator, but I never lost track of the ideas and questions central to Rudolf Steiner’s insights of how to continually grow an anthroposophically inspired organization. It would be some 20 years before my hopes for a training program for administrators in the Northwest would materialize.
We all know that the hope of Rudolf Steiner, when he helped found the first Waldorf School, was that the school would become a beacon of spiritual impulses for the local community – a center of social/spiritual renewal. This would require a special kind of working together by the teachers and staff and volunteers of the school led by an interest in anthroposophical insights. But who was to lead these endeavors?
It was clear that Steiner imagined that the teachers, trained and experienced, committed to working both educationally and socially out of anthroposophy, would provide leadership to their own schools and that these schools would find support from local groups of people involved in anthroposophy.
What has happened for Waldorf schools in North America is a different story. Today, more than ever, there is a shortage of trained and experienced teachers. The task of teaching has become so demanding that teachers have less and less time to explore the social organizational dimension of the schools. Therefore, to help ease the burden on the teachers, schools have developed professional administrations to share the responsibility of running the schools and instilling related social ideals.
Between 1991 and 2008, Chris Schaefer and a group of colleagues, offered the first training for administrators of Waldorf schools at Sunbridge College in NY. This training arose in response to the problems arising in Waldorf schools related to either hiring administrative staff with no understanding or real connection to the education, or hiring teachers to do administrative work with no professional experience. It was an intensive course that took participants through a journey of exploring the basics of Waldorf education and anthroposophy, helped individuals on their path of self-development and explored the unique organizational dynamics of Waldorf schools.
Much of this curriculum stemmed from Chris Schaefer’s experience as a Waldorf student, as an organizational consultant with various companies and as a teacher at the Social Development Centre at Emerson College, where the focus was on the work of the Dutch anthroposophist and doctor, Bernard Lievegoed. Lievegoed, one of the leading thinkers and practitioners of anthroposhical organizational development in the last century, was a teacher, author, head of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society and a student of Rudolf Steiner’s.
“What we were hoping to do, at the Social Development Centre and at Sunbridge, was to keep the ideas of an anthroposophically inspired organization alive in small groups of people. That’s why each course involved not only helping participants develop their professional organizational skills but helping them each find a living relationship to Steiner's social insights through their own practice of inner work based on anthroposophy. Our hope was to help people become the vessels for new social impulses and to serve and help lead their schools on their individual journey of growth and development. To a great degree we felt successful. One of the challenges we faced was that our students would return to their schools and not have the easiest time integrating their new capacities into the schools’ structures. We spent a lot of time on the phone coaching our students!”
Leading with Spirit picks up where the Sunbridge program developed by Chris Schaefer and his colleagues left off, but with some significant differences. We understand that this type of training program needs to be flexible to meet the many demands of current administrative staff in Waldorf schools. The vision for the program is to offer a regionally based course that can be joined by new students at any point in the program. It will provide students with opportunities and support to do research, to come together in intensive seminars with colleagues, to be able to explore other local and regional weekend offerings, and to provide ongoing mentoring to participants as they meet challenges between courses. All of these are rolled into a flexible but intensive learning journey. (You can find an outline of the course content and process at www.leadingwithspirit.org)
Starting this summer in Hawthorne Valley, NY, hosted by Alkion Teacher Training Center, and by the Whidbey Island Waldorf School in WA, the program begins with one simple week-long intensive. Another program group hosted by the Waldorf Institute of Southern Michigan will start in the summer of 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The program website provides detailed information.
The future of Waldorf education and the possibility that Waldorf schools can be transformative organizations rests both on the capacity of teachers to continue their good work out of a real creative impulse connected to anthroposophy and the capacity of administrative staff to do the same. Leading with Spirit is one attempt to support this essential task.
A graduate of the first class of the Sunbridge administrative course, Mara White, Director of School and humanities teacher at Waldorf High School of Massachusetts Bay, joined Chris in 1996 as a core faculty member in the Sunbridge administrative course and will again be instrumental in the program being launched this year. Working with Bob Dandrew, the Chair and Development Director of AWSNA in 1993, Mara helped establish a network of administrative and development staff in Waldorf schools across the continent to grow a supportive community of those working in schools in administrative capacities. The goal was to highlight the importance of administrative work and to encourage an understanding that this work in the schools is, as with teaching, a vocation.
What grew from these efforts was named DANA (Development and Administrative Network of AWSNA). DANA is still active today, with coordinators in each of AWSNA’s eight regions. “DANA was another hope to provide individuals who were involved in school administration with support, collegial mentoring and shared resources and to gather information for the movement’s leaders on the needs of the administrative work and staff in our schools. The DANA network initiated an effective practices project (resources on the AWSNA website), hosted conferences and worked to be active as the administrations in schools grew more and more professional and better rooted in anthroposophical principles. After many years of work with DANA, I am even more committed to providing professional level training focused for administrative staff in Waldorf schools. We need a training that can be flexible, and both regional and continental, at the same time. Our new work with Leading with Spirit is an attempt to do this.”
Another collaborator on Leading with Spirit, Marti Stewart, began her administrative work at City of Lakes Waldorf School thirteen years ago. Marti views her work as an Administrative Director as a true vocation and believes in the profound importance of administrative work in creating and maintaining health in our schools. "In the same way as the teacher guards and respects the unique gifts each child brings to the class community, it is the task of the administrative staff to honor and nurture the gifts of everyone in the adult community." Marti participated in the administrative course at Sunbridge and was inspired to look at the deeper aspects of guiding the administrative work in a Waldorf School. Now, as a regional DANA Coordinator in the Great Lakes Region, she is excited to be a part of an administrative course that can support individuals who are serving in administrative roles across the continent. "I am especially excited that the Waldorf Institute of Southern Michigan (WISM) is willing to offer the training program in our region."
Sian Owen-Cruise agrees. As High school Coordinator at the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor and Interim Director at the Waldorf Institute of Southeastern Michigan, Sian is another colleague in the movement who started her work in administration and sees clearly that the development of Anthroposophically centered administrative structures is essential to the growth and development of Waldorf education in North America. Sian comments “it is clear to me that my path in Waldorf Education is one of administration and the building of collaborative schools that truly support children and their families, and have an impact on the wider community they are part of.” Sian is also a graduate of the Sunbridge course.
In Steiner’s life, after many initiatives were launched in 1917 around his social ideals, he found that people did not have the capacities to be successful in some degree because they were not prepared to understand the spiritual ideals needed to be creative in new ways. While this realization was a life disappointment for Steiner it also served as one of the impulses for Waldorf education. Steiner believed that a new educational process, and a journey based on a new understanding of the human being, might have the hope of preparing generations of young souls to meet the social challenges of their times with new capacities. That is still our hope with Waldorf Education. And that is the basis for this new training program.
Come join us this summer.
Management vs Governance – It’s Not That Easy
WRITTEN BY DIANNE BALL - NOVEMBER 3, 2010
Estimated read time: 4 minutes
( Editor note: This article describes the three possible modes of board work in an organization. It assumes the role of CEO and a hierarchical structure that are not common in Waldorf schools. But the concept of the different modes of action of a board still hold , even in our collaborative organizations. You need to do a bit of translating to make it relevant to our situations. Still I have worked with different schools where boards worked in these modes and each mode has specific strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot of interest in schools for developing boards that are more strategic than managing, but the lack of resources and the infancy of many administrative structures often makes a board feel they are responsible for cleaning things up and they feel justified in being strongly managerial. An experienced administrator, a strong administration or a well functioning college of teachers all contribute to allowing a board to be more involved in being a watchdog than a pilot. -ms-)
During our education on governance and directorship we are taught that “directors govern and managers manage”. The analogy of steering versus rowing is often used to describe the delineation of roles between directors and managers. Most directors are well aware of this.
It seems that many boards are challenged with the task of getting the ‘right’ balance between governance and management. Why is this so? Experienced directors are aware that every board is different in terms of the way they implement their governance role. Lack of clarity and agreement about this issue can be a source of misunderstanding and potential conflict around the board table.
According to Demb and Neubauer (1992)* there are three main archetypal ways for boards to implement their governance role; named the watchdog, the trustee and the pilot mode. In summary, a ‘watchdog’ role is one in which the board provides total oversight and has no direct involvement in the company’s activities. The ‘trustee’ role is where the board behaves like a guardian of assets and is accountable to shareholders and society for those assets. In a ‘pilot’ role the board takes an active role in directing the business of the corporation.
There is no ‘right’ approach for a board to take. The stance taken by a board depends on the company’s growth and development, the nature of the industry, national legal requirements and culture and preference. To illustrate how these modes operate we use an example of how the board of Company X would address issues of workplace safety in an industry where safety was a major risk.
In the watchdog mode the board monitors the process of corporate activity. It is not necessarily a passive role. If Company X performed in this way they could take an active role in setting up mechanisms of safety and security as an issue of high risk and concern, and scrutinise in detail. The difference between an active watchdog role and a passive role would be the degree of scrutiny and interrogation of information that occurs. The focus of a board in watchdog mode is on monitoring and evaluation and confirming decisions made by the CEO.
This mode could be effective if all of the following conditions are met:
- Directors are satisfied that appropriate systems and policies are in place and have been demonstrated to be effective. The important point is demonstration or evidence of effectiveness rather than just the assurance of the CEO.
- Directors are satisfied that information reported by the CEO includes relevant indicators and other information that directly reflects the integrity of safety and security systems.
- The CEO is willing and able to guarantee that appropriate safety systems are in place and they have been tested and found to be robust.
- Contingency and business continuity plans are regularly reviewed and tested and the results reported to the board.
- Directors are able to exercise critical and independent judgment.
If the board of Company X was in trustee role it would ensure that activities enhance corporate value; that is, ensuring that assets used in the business such as natural assets, human, finance, reputation and others, would at the least avoid being depleted. The board would be involved in evaluating what the company defines as its business as well as how that business is conducted.
If Company X was in trustee mode it would be more actively involved than a watchdog board but still confirming management decisions. This involvement would be limited in the initiation and implementation of safety systems but substantially involved in analyzing options, monitoring and evaluating results. The following actions would be undertaken in this mode:
- With input from the CEO the board would give direction to senior management to develop an appropriate safety and risk management system. The board would set the parameters and expectations and allow senior management to develop the detail.
- Directors would be actively involved in analysing options in the safety strategy.
- The CEO would implement the safety systems and the board would be intimately involved in monitoring progress and evaluating the results.
The trustee mode would give sufficient attention to the integrity of safety systems, regardless of whether the existing safety systems are appropriate or otherwise.
So how does this compare with the pilot mode? As the name suggests, in pilot mode the board would be actively involved in the direction, management, implementation and evaluation of safety systems. The board would be making more decisions than in the other modes such as the following:
- Deciding what constitutes a safety system and what is to be installed;
- Determining the degree and method of integrating systems with customers;
- Actively analysing options;
- Deciding how and when to implement changes to the safety system;
- Detailed monitoring of the safety systems, even when there is no evidence of problems;
- Close scrutiny and evaluation of the systems.
Pilot mode could be appropriate in situations where there was evidence of significant issues or after a safety issue had occurred and the board felt the need to directly intervene. Pilot mode would be more time consuming and involve greater degree of involvement by directors.
We can see from the above examples that a board can fulfil its governance role and be involved in decision making in a range of different ways, all of which are appropriate in the right circumstances.
It is important for boards to take a step back and reflect on the way they behave and ask whether the degree of involvement by directors is appropriate for this organisation, at this time, in this context. Whether the issue is explored in a board evaluation process or discussed around the table, it is important that all directors give consideration as to what is appropriate for your organisation and be in agreement about what is required. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to do things a little differently.
About Dianne Ball
Dianne has thirty years experience working in service organisations, mainly in the public and private health sectors and consulting with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Her roles include senior management and executive positions including CEO Australian College of Health Service Executives, and General Manager Operations with McKesson Asia Pacific. She has several years experience as a non executive director and has Chaired board committees and working parties. Dianne’s particular work interests lie in organisational change, corporate governance, risk and strategy.
GOOD GOVERNANCE: THE ESSENTIAL CHECKLIST
Based on and adapted from Capacity Waterloo Region on the internet
Editor's note (I especially like this checklist more than others because it emphasizes attention to overlaps that normally cause problems in Waldorf schools. You can certainly adapt it for your use. As with all checklists, it is a good place to launch a discussion of roles, responsibilities and agreements. -ms-)
CO M M UN I CA T I O N
The Board speaks collectively with One Voice at all times
Admin/Faculty reports to the Board on a regular basis
The Admin/Facultyalways keeps the Board informed of major internal / external issues or trends
The Admin/Faculty does not instruct any Board member, including the Chair of the Board
The Board makes an honest effort to engage with the membership
The Admin/Faculty makes an honest effort to engage with the beneficiaries & customers
RO L E S A N D RE S P O N S I B I LI T I E S
The Board focuses on governance duties, i.e., strategic visioning & long-term planning
The Admin/Faculty focuses on operational duties, i.e., annual budgeting, goal setting, day-to-day
The Board does not instruct the Executive Director or staff on day-to-day duties
The Admin/Faculty does not instruct any Board member, including the Board Chair
The Board Chair facilitates free and open meeting discussions based on a set agenda
MON I T OR I N G
Detailed minutes are kept from all Board meetings, i.e., Motions, Vote Counts, etc.
The Board monitors its own performance on a regular basis, e.g., Self-Evaluations
The Board evaluates the Administrator’s fulfillment of strategic objectives
The Board monitors the organization’s financial conditions on a quarterly basis
Audited financial statements are readily available and accessible to the membership
CO M M I T T E E W O RK
Board committees have a set mandate, membership, and lifespan
Board committees report to the Board and thus have no binding authority
Board and staff committees do not have overlapping mandates
Board members on staff committees do not direct staff or report content to the Board
Board committees are used infrequently, as boardroom discussion is paramount
AC C O U NT AB I L I T Y
The Mission, Vision, and Values are drafted and enforced by the Board
The Admin/Faculty is fully accountable to the Board for all activities & actions of the organization
The Board remains accountable to the membership at all times
Confidentiality is respected by all Board members and staff alike
The Board is ethical, prudent and legal in all of its duties
More and more organizations are seeking to find new governance structures and practices that support a balance between individual creativity and organizational harmony and effectiveness. This was the case 100 years ago when the first Waldorf School was founded. In the past 100 years, we have had the benefit of a great deal of work and insight into the nature, function and development of organizations. Rudolf Steiner offered some keen insights into social development that are still relevant and useful today. In addition, Bernard Lievegoed, the dynamic student of Steiner's, head of the Anthroposophical movement in Netherlands and inspired thinker, trainer, and author worked with this question his whole life and was part of the new world wide movement to bring new insights into understanding organizations and their development. Following on Lievegoed's work, the Waldorf movement in the last 50 years has pioneered new collaborative models of organization and governance. The Center for Social Development in England and the work of Chris Schaefer and others there and in the US have contributed a great deal to the understanding of the dynamics of governance. New models like Dynamic Governance, Holocracy, and Policy Governance are also examples of responses to this question that continue to offer new ideas about collaborative organizations.. Frederic Laloux, in his book, “Reinventing Organizations”, provides us with another deeper look at a new emerging paradigm in collaborative organizations.
The articles in this newsletter offer a variety of insights on the topic of governance – from understanding basic principles of governance and knowing the basic types of governance models, to looking at effective practices in Waldorf Schools and delving deeper into anthroposophical insights into social creation.
The images for this newsletter are pictures of tree trunks – each quite beautiful and unique and each serving a similar function – to protect, nurture and support the tree’s growth. Trees stand as a structural element of the forest, much like governance is a structural element in organizations. -MS-
Understanding Governance by Michael Soule
Every organization struggles with the question of how to establish and maintain good governance.
Even the definition of governance can be a challenge. Just like the descriptors “environmental” or “sustainable” can mean different things, so too can the term “governance”.
Nevertheless, we as leaders must constantly strive to understand and improve the governance in our organizations.
Here are five essential tools to help leaders understand, nurture, and transform their organization’s governance.
- Know the difference between governance and management.
When you begin to sort out your governance structure, this will help you be clear and avoid too much overlap between different groups. Management, in a nutshell, has to do with operations, and governance has to do with structure, roles and responsibilities, but the differences go deeper than this. (See the article in our resources section.)
- Know the different basic types of governance models.
Understanding the principles of different models will help you be smart in defining your own
path, deciding when your organization needs to change or choosing a prescribed model. Below is a good outline that explores the different types and some of the possibilities and challenges of each.
- Know the history of governance in your organization.
Understanding the biography of your organization and its path of governance will give you insights into the potential future. There are many ways to approach this. This is often the first step in any major capital campaign and an important part of renewing your mission statement.
- Know the capacities of the people currently in the organization.
Understanding the capacities of each other will help you create roles and responsibilities that fit your particular situation. Spending time regularly to share individual biographies and life stories, to share personal and professional goals and to share self-assessments can help strengthen this.
- Be very clear about specific roles and responsibilities and the relationship between individuals and groups in the organization.
Overlapping roles and unclear roles are two of the primary areas that cause difficulties in an organization. There are also various ways to work on this – practicing the basics of a mandate organization (See article in the resource section) to implementing a RACI model are two promising ways.
The Heart of Governance: Agreements
An organization’s governance system is primarily a set of agreements. The organization’s success depends upon the nature of those agreements, including how they come about, how they are maintained and how they are reviewed and renewed. Agreements (like job descriptions, committee mandates, bylaws, mission statements, polices, handbooks, etc) are best when they:
- Reflect the organization’s values and mission and help people feel connected to the whole organization.
- Are clearly written, regularly reviewed and revised with the participation of those they effect.
- Identify the pathways for collaboration and communication and outline processes for navigating changes
Understanding the importance of agreements and the role they play in the governance can bring great clarity to the leadership of an organization.
In the end, whether you follow a specific governance model or whether you create a hybrid form that meets your unique needs and skills, the underlying keys to success are the agreements that you are able to articulate, follow and renew. Personal relationships may carry the organization forward for a while but when life changes, the ways in which you have articulated the qualities of those relationships in the structural documents of your governance will be a guiding wisdom that will allow for health to continue in the organization.
Good governance is like good leadership; it is relational, responsive and self-aware. It strengthens relationships and a sense of community, building connection and trust. It builds confidence when it responds to needs in a direct and timely way. It creates a culture of self awareness and reflection that supports continual meaningful development.
Reflections on Nathan Garber’s Article on Governance Models
The article below by Nathan Garber is a good review and summary of the basic typical models of governance in organizations and the role that boards play in the different models. In Waldorf schools, there are many variations of governance models with most following a variation on the cooperative board model. All of the models below depend upon clearly articulated lines of authority and strong leadership. In the Cooperative model, like in most Waldorf schools the leadership is more dispersed throughout the organization. The keys to success in a dispersed leadership organization is the strength of the designated leadership Council (often the College in the Waldorf school) that acts similarly to the role of the CEO in other organizations. Garber points out very accurately the key downside to cooperative governance – the inability to assure accountability between peers. The Sociocracy and Holocracy models described elsewhere in Leadtogether newsletter, and the book by Frederic Laloux, “Reinventing Organizations” all offer ways that organizations can be more collaborative and overcome the lack of natural accountability. For more on how to assure accountability, see LeadTogether Newsletter #10. – Michael Soule
What's Right for Your Board
by Nathan Garber
Nonprofit boards tend to follow one of five different approaches to governance. Each approach emphasizes different dimensions of the roles and responsibilities of the board and each arises out of a different relationship between board members and staff members. These in turn reflect differences in the size, purpose, and history of the organization. I call these approaches the Advisory, the Patron Model, the Co-operative model, the Management Team Model, and the Policy Board Model. I conclude with some questions to ask when you are considering changing your board structure.
Advisory Board Model
This model emphasizes the helping and supportive role of the Board and frequently occurs where the CEO is the founder of the organization. The Board's role is primarily that of helper/advisor to the CEO. Board members are recruited for three main reasons: they are trusted as advisors by the CEO; they have a professional skill that the organization needs but does not want to pay for; they are likely to be helpful in establishing the credibility of the organization for fundraising and public relations purposes.
Individual board members may be quite active in performing these functions and consequently feel that they are making a valuable contribution to the organization. Board meetings tend to be informal and task-focused, with the agenda developed by the CEO.
The Advisory Board model can work well for a short time in many organizations but it exposes the board members to significant liability in that it fails to provide the accountability mechanisms that are required of boards of directors. By law, the board has the obligation to manage the affairs of the organization and can be held accountable for certain actions of employees and committees. It must therefore maintain a superior position to the CEO. Although the board is permitted to delegate many of its responsibilities to staff or committees, it cannot make itself subordinate to them.
Similar to the Advisory Board model, the board of directors in the Patron Model has even less influence over the organization than an advisory board. Composed of wealthy and influential individuals with a commitment to the mission of the organization, the Patron Board serves primarily as a figurehead for fund raising purposes. Such boards meet infrequently as their real work is done outside board meetings. Writing cheques and getting their friends to write cheques is their contribution to the organization.
Many organizations maintain a Patron Board in addition to their governing boards. For capital campaigns and to establish credibility of a newly formed organizations, Patron Boards can be especially helpful. They cannot be relied upon, however, for governance tasks such as vision development, organizational planning, or program monitoring.
For a number of different reasons, some organizations try to avoid hierarchical structures. The decision-making structure in such organizations is typically labeled "peer management" or "collective management". In this model, all responsibility is shared and there is no Chief Executive Officer. Decision-making is normally by consensus and no individual has power over another. If the law did not require it, they would not have a board of directors at all. In order to be incorporated, however, there must be a board of directors and officers. The organization therefore strives to fit the board of directors into its organizational philosophy by creating a single managing/governing body composed of official board members, staff members, volunteers, and sometimes clients.
Seen by its advocates as the most democratic style of management, it is also, perhaps, the most difficult of all models to maintain, requiring among other things, a shared sense of purpose, an exceptional level of commitment by all group members, a willingness to accept personal responsibility for the work of others, and an ability to compromise. When working well, the organization benefits from the direct involvement of front-line workers in decision-making and the synergy and camaraderie created by the interaction of board and staff.
I have noted two areas of concern with this model. The first is that although the ability to compromise is an essential element in the successful functioning of this model, cooperatives often arise out of a strong ideological or philosophical commitment that can be inimical to compromise. The second concern is the difficulty of implementing effective accountability structures. At the time of implementing this model, there may be a high motivation level in the organization, which obviates the need for accountability mechanisms. But, as personnel changes take place, the sense of personal commitment to the group as a whole may be lost. In the collective model, there is no effective way to ensure that accountability for individual actions is maintained.
Management Team Model
For many years, most nonprofit organizations have been run by boards, which operate according to the model of a Management Team, organizing their committees and activities along functional lines. In larger organizations, the structure of the board and its committees usually mirrors the structure of the organization's administration. Just as there are staff responsible for human resources, fund-raising, finance, planning, and programs, the board creates committees with responsibility for these areas.
Where there is no paid staff, the board's committee structure becomes the organization's administrative structure and the board members are also the managers and delivers of programs and services. Individually or in committees, board members take on all governance, management and operational tasks including strategic planning, bookkeeping, fund-raising, newsletter, and program planning and implementation.
The widespread adoption of the Management Team model, arises out its correspondence with modern ideas about team management and democratic structures in the workplace. It also fits well with the widely held view of nonprofits as volunteer-driven or at least nonprofessional organizations. This model fits well with the experience of many people as volunteers in community groups like service clubs, Home and School groups, scouts and guides, and hobby groups. It also mirrors the processes involved in the creation of a new organization or service. It is no wonder then, that most prescriptive books and articles written between 1970 and 1990 (and many written more recently) define this model as the ideal.
Boards which operate under the Management Team model are characterized by a high degree of involvement in the operational and administrative activities of the organization. In organizations with professional management this normally takes the form of highly directive supervision of the CEO and staff at all levels of the organization. Structurally, there may be many committees and subcommittees. Decision-making extends to fine details about programs, services, and administrative practices. When working well, two criteria tend to be used in the selection of members: their knowledge and experience in a specific field, such as business or accounting; or because they are members of a special interest group or sector that the board considers to be stakeholders.
While this model works well for all-volunteer organizations, it has proven to be less suited to organizations that already have professional management and full-time employees. Indeed, the deficiencies of this model have led to the current thinking in the field which differentiates "governance" (the practices of boards of directors) from "management" (the practices of employees) and the deluge of research, articles, and manuals on this topic.
The most important shortcoming is that all too frequently, it degenerates into what I call the Micro-management Team Model in which board members refuse to delegate authority, believing that their role requires them to make all operational decisions, leaving only the implementation to paid staff. The result is invariably a lack of consistency in decisions, dissatisfied board members, resentful staff and a dangerous lack of attention to planning and accountability matters.
Policy Board Model
As noted above, the need to differentiate the board's role from the manager's role arose from the failure of many organizations to maintain proper accountability at the highest levels and the dissatisfaction of many board members over the their inability to comply with the expectations of their role. They began to ask why, when they were such competent and accomplished individuals, they felt so ineffective and frustrated as board members. This led to an examination of the role of the board, the relationship between the board and the CEO, and the relationship between the board and the community.
The originator and most influential proponent of the Policy Board Model is John Carver, whose book, Boards that Make a Difference, has had a great effect on thousands of nonprofit organizations. All Policy Board Models share the view that the job of the board is: to establish the guiding principles and policies for the organization; to delegate responsibility and authority to those who are responsible for enacting the principles and policies; to monitor compliance with those guiding principles and policies; to ensure that staff, and board alike are held accountable for their performance.
Where the models diverge is the way these jobs are done and the extent to which strategic planning and fundraising as are seen as board jobs.
Boards operating under the Policy Board Model are characterized by a high level of trust and confidence in the CEO. There are relatively few standing committees, resulting in more meetings of the full board. Board development is given a high priority in order to ensure that new members are able to function effectively, and recruitment is an ongoing process. Members are recruited for their demonstrated commitment to the values and mission of the organization.
Which Model is the Right One?
There are a number of reasons for considering a change in your governance model:
- board members are dissatisfied with their roles or the way the board operates;
- your organization is experiencing problems that can be traced back to inadequacies in board structure or process;
- your organization is entering a new phase in its life-cycle;
- the CEO has left or is leaving;
- there has been a major turnover of board members;
- there is a crisis of confidence in the board or the CEO.
The descriptions above, of the various governance models, will give you an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each model, but the difficulty in making the transition cannot be overstated. Changing models is like changing lifestyles. You must abandon well-established ideas and patterns of behavior, replacing them with new ideas, roles, and activities that will seem confusing and unfamiliar. This type of change takes a considerable amount of time, energy, and other resources to accomplish. The answers to the following questions will help you to determine how badly you need to change your governance model and whether your board and organization have the necessary commitment and resources to accomplish it successfully. Take your time with each question, ensuring that each board member answers each question.
- Do we have a clear understanding and agreement on the purpose of our organization? Is it written down?
- What are the basic values which guide our organization and our board? Are they written down?
- How do we know whether the good our organization does is worth what it costs to operate it?
- What financial resources do we have and can we reasonably count on for the next few years?
- To what extent are board members expected to contribute money and labor to fundraising efforts?
- Do we believe that the organization should be run as a cooperative or collective - with staff participating along with board members in the governing of the organization?
- How much time is each board member willing to give to the organization in the next year (or until the end of their term)
- How much trust does the board have in the ability of the CEO to ensure that the organization operates in an effective and ethical manner?
- What are our expectations about attendance at board and committee meetings?
- What is the attendance record of each board member?
- How do we hold board members accountable?
- What is the record of each board member and committee with respect to meetings and results?
- How useful has each committee proven to be?
- To what extent do committees duplicate staff jobs? How satisfied are our members with the current board performance?
- Who thinks we should change our governance model?
- How much time and money are we willing to devote to increasing our own knowledge and skills to improve our performance as board members?
- How does our board deal with differences of opinion?
- How do members deal with decisions when we disagree?
- To what extent is it necessary for us (board members) to be involved in the delivery of programs and services, marketing, public speaking, etc.
- Who attends our Annual General Meeting? Why do they come?
- As board members, to whom do we wish to be accountable?
- How effective is our current recruitment method in getting excellent board members?
Take some time to consider these questions. The answers will tell you the degree of difficulty you will have in changing to a new governance model and where the problems lie. For additional information and for training and consulting services related to governance models, contact: Nathan Garber & Associates email: nathan@GarberConsulting.com
© 1997, Nathan Garber. Permission is hereby granted to reprint this article in part or in total provided that the author is acknowledged.