Welcome Orientation

Welcome to LeadTogether

Forming School Communities, The Renewal of the Social Organism, M Karutz, AWSNA

 Forming School Communities - Contents Intro - Mathiaas Krutz


Forming School Communities - Renewal of the Social Organism - Contents Intro - Mathiaas Krutz


Review and Comments on “Collaborative Leadership”, an article by Arnoud DeMeyer of Cambridge, UK, about the trends affecting modern day organizations and the need for collaboration.

Review and Comments on “Collaborative Leadership”, an article by Arnoud DeMeyer of Cambridge, UK, about the trends affecting modern day organizations and the need for collaboration.

Review and comments (in blue) by Michael Soule. LeadTogether2014

This article by Arnoud DeMeyer from 2009 provides readers a deeper understanding of the trends in business and culture that are affecting the need for collaborative work in organizations. While the article is focused at a global scale, the insights De Meyer’s shares are relevant to our school movement. His introduction could easily be a description of the new qualities we need in school leadership. In the article, he also warns that the current definitions and literature about leadership are often conflicting or incoherent and popular approaches to how to prepare the coming generation of leaders (in our case young teachers) are inadequate. De Meyer points to the need to help young leaders develop new capacities for meeting and adapting to change. And while this premise is not new, he proposes that developing skills and competencies for collaboration are essential if our institutions are going to survive and thrive.

Leadership is often defined as the capability to successfully manage change in organizations. The way one manages change is to some extent contextual and influenced by the environment. The environment our future leaders have to operate in is quite different from what we were used to in the previous decade. Leadership styles therefore need adaptation.  ADM

De Meyer outlines 8 major shifts in culture that he believes are central to the need for new collaborative leadership. These are below with notes from me about their relevance to work in our schools:

What is changing in our environment?

De Meyer posits that the environment in which we need to innovate and implement change has changed dramatically. He attributes the changes to the following eight megatrends: (The trends are his, the comments are mine.)

1. Globalization

 As the world is becoming more and more diverse, our communities, our schools and ideas about education and schooling are also becoming ever more diverse. This requires us to have more strategies for dealing with diverse needs and ideas, not only from our children and parents but also from our colleagues and staff.

2. Fragmentation of the value chain (in school terms: More groups and volunteers taking on important tasks in the operation of the school)

It is not a matter of getting committees to do what the faculty or board dictates but letting smaller groups have more autonomy. This requires a greater degree than ever of values sharing and agreement. The more we use volunteers in important roles, the more orientation is needed. The more groups in the school, the more communication and alignment are needed. Every time we form a new group or accept a new child and family or hire a new teacher additional alignment is needed.

3. More knowledge workers (more specialists than generalists)

EC, Grade and HS teachers are drifting further apart as they become specialists in their pedagogical areas.  This presents increasing challenges for creating a sense of the whole. The school begins to operate more in parts and more and more energy is needed to keep the whole focused on a singular goal.

4. The increasing demands (and skepticism) of society (of Parents)

 Changing family demographics (more families with only one child, more older parents, more single parents, more parental pressure on children to succeed) requires teachers not only to be good pedagogical masters but also to be well versed on the vast array of new educational ideas and communication tools to deal with more involved and demanding parents.

We are coming out of a period in which teachers and schools were revered more than they are today. In the future, our teachers will increasingly need to justify their approach and actions to increasingly skeptical parents.  Adult education about the education will be increasingly important.

5. Dispersion of the sources of knowledge and innovation

In the future, more and more people will know more and more about the pedagogy and the operation of the school.  At the same time, schools will have faculties where the knowledge and experience base is more dispersed among colleagues.  The cohesion of the central group and its capacity to involve wider and wider circles will be more and more essential.

6. Changes in the structure of multinationals (from pyramidal to collections of networks)

 The challenge of having more administrative staff, educational support staff, cooperative groups, committees and networks in the school will require more attention to communication.  Intergroup collaboration will become more and more important.

7. Increased importance of risk management (considering the dynamics of actions and looking ahead)

In a non-hierarchical organization, the management of risks requires a lot of attention. As decision-making is more distributed, the small effects of minor mess-ups in different realms, for whatever reason, will undermine the trust that is essential for community building. We all will be tasked to listen more acutely and respond more quickly to people’s reactions to small mistakes.

8. The increase of social networking and information overload

The challenges of managing the school are greatly increasing by the demand for more and more, quicker and quicker information by parents about what is happening with their children and in the school as a whole. This, plus the proliferation of the Internet, email and texting capabilities -- and the subsequent weakened personal connection -- will be important challenges. We already know that more emails easily leads to weaker personal connections.

The new collaborative leader (in our terms, collegial leader)

 DE Meyer’s trends are general and interrelated but they can easily be seen to be active in our schools. Because Waldorf schools have been practicing collaborative operation longer than most organizations, we already have incorporated a lot of innovative and creative solutions.  We have trained ourselves gradually through practice. Our schools continue to be works in progress.  Therefore, by recognizing these challenges brought by emerging trends can help us understand when our actions are not successful.

DE Meyer’s goes on to write about the four areas that he believes are necessary for every individual to work on to meet these trends and practices that could help.




Influencing (What I would call Reality and Insight based decisioning)

Adaptability (Embracing and working with ambiguity)



Getting the right mindset (having the right imagination)

It is about understanding that others have capabilities and are prepared to share these with you in order to achieve change and innovation.  It is learning how to work on an equal basis with others. It is about being prepared to make the investments in relationships. It requires being prepared to recognize peers’ contribution. By good communication practices and value alignment, people can grow to appreciate that one can accomplish much more in a collaborative environment than alone.


Reducing transaction costs (managing the amount of time energy needed to work out of collaboration)

In the long run, collaboration, like consensus saves time and energy, but in the process one must be willing to appreciate the ways in which slower processes facilitate the building of stronger community and more overall value throughout the organization.

Working beyond the borders of the organization (continually building the relationship between the organization and the community)

Building consensus (inclusive advancement)

One of the risks of a more collaborative organization is that values begin to decrease towards the least common denominator and overall the organization loses vitality. It is essential that paths be found to renew the highest values of a school.

5. Ability to network

Everyone involved in the organization will be called upon to become more social in the process. Our schools already have a very social model, but it will be important that the social working within groups and between groups is genuine and regularly renewed.


6. Managing polarities

 Real collaborative work requires a new emphasis on embracing differences and identifying, understanding and embracing polarities. (Work / life, parent as partner/consumer, school as business/cultural endeavor)

About the author

Arnoud DE MEYER is the President of Singapore Management University. Previously Professor of Management Studies at the University of Cambridge (UK) and Director of Judge Business School. He was also a visiting professor at the Universities of Kiel (Germany), Ghent and Antwerp (Belgium) and Waseda and Keio University (Japan).


Find the original article here Collaborative Leadership A D 2009 final

The Conductor less Orchestra, H Seifter



by Harvey Seifter

Institute, No.21, Summer 2001


Tapping into the unique skills of knowledge workers requires leaders to adopt new ways of thinking and to apply new models of organization to the workplace. According to Harvard business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter in Executive Excellence, "Your structures should be very loose and very flexible: less hierarchy, more opportunity for people to play many different roles. Sometimes you may be a team leader, and at other times you may be a team member. Also, be very flexible with respect to titles, and very fluid in terms of moving people from project to project, depending on the requirements. And be very project oriented, rather than fixed-job oriented."Knowledge workers are not limited to the world of high-tech, New Economy business. They are found in every industry and every business and, as Peter Drucker has pointed out, in some surprising places -- including symphony orchestras. And one orchestra in particular -- New York City-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra -- has become a model for Kanter's new kind of loose and flexible organization.Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is an orchestra with a difference: it has no conductor. The group was founded in 1972 by cellist Julian Fifer and a small group of like-minded musicians with the goal of bringing the chamber music ideals of democracy, personal involvement, and mutual respect into an orchestral setting. In an interview with Ron Lieber in Fast Company (May 2000, p. 286), Fifer stated, "I loved chamber music's clarity of sound and flexibility of temperament. I wanted to bring that camaraderie and spirit into a larger setting. And in order for everyone to be able to communicate more effectively, it seemed necessary to do without a conductor." Orpheus, widely considered to be one of the world's great orchestras, comprises 27 permanent members -- employees who cannot be fired -- and a number of substitute players who fill in where necessary, as well as a board of trustees and administrative management.

In most orchestras, the conductor directly supervises each musician; the conductor not only decides what music will be played but how it will be played as well. There is little room for the opinions or suggestions of the musicians themselves; such input is rarely solicited and even less often welcomed. Like workers reporting to an autocratic manager, orchestral musicians are expected to unquestioningly follow the direction of the conductor -- anything less invites humiliation before one's colleagues and may be grounds for immediate dismissal.

As a result, orchestral musicians are a notoriously unhappy class of employees. Paul Judy reports that when Harvard Business School professor J. Richard Hackman studied job attitudes among people working in 13 different job groups, he discovered that symphony orchestra musicians ranked below prison guards in job satisfaction. Further, when asked about their satisfaction with opportunities for career growth, symphony orchestra musicians fared even worse, ranking 9th out of the 13 surveyed job categories. Clearly, although the results of an orchestral performance can be exceptionally uplifting, the means of attaining these results are often anything but uplifting to those whose job it is to achieve them.

In place of the traditional fixed leadership position of conductor, Orpheus has developed a unique system of collaborative leadership that invites every member of the orchestra to participate in leadership positions, either leading the group in rehearsal and performance as concertmaster, or by leading one of the orchestra's many different formal or informal teams. This system is extremely flexible -- musicians freely move in and out of positions of leadership -- and it can be used to quickly adapt to changing conditions in the marketplace or within the group itself.

This free flow of leadership positions within the group encourages all the members of the orchestra to give their personal best performance. Cellist Eric Bartlett says, "When there's an important concert, everybody feels it, and everybody goes into it doing their absolute best work, giving it their utmost concentration, playing off of each other, and making sparks fly. For the most part, in a conducted orchestra, you play a more passive role. Not only is less expected of you, but less is expected from you. You have to play extremely well, but you're not playing off of your colleagues -- you're playing off of that one person in front of the orchestra holding the baton. I don't see that people in regular orchestras are emotionally involved in the same way. Everybody plays well, they do a very good job, but the level of individual emotional involvement isn't there."

With no conductor to act as a filter to the what and the why behind the group's decisions, the members of Orpheus are uncommonly energized and responsive to the needs of the organization and to the desires of its leaders. Turnover is extremely low and employee loyalty is extremely high. The result is a better product, increased customer satisfaction, and a healthier bottom line.

Principles of Orpheus Leadership

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has labeled its system of collaborative leadership the "Orpheus Process." While the process is not without its difficulties -- getting 27 talented and strong-willed people to agree to anything can often be a very real challenge -- it has served the group well over the past three decades and it continues to evolve to meet the needs of the orchestra and its customers: the listening public. This process, detailed in the accompanying sidebar, is built on a foundation of eight principles:

1. Put power in the hands of the people doing the work.

In recent years, company leaders have heard a common refrain: organizations that empower their workers with true authority and responsibility can expect better products and services, more satisfied customers, and increased revenue and profits. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that many managers have been slow to give up power, in many cases withholding it altogether. According to a Gallup poll of 1,200 U.S. workers, while 66 percent of respondents reported that their managers asked them to get involved in decision making within their organizations, only 14 percent of these same workers reported that they felt they had actually been given real authority.

According to double-bass player Don Palma, a member since the group's founding in 1972, the difference between working in Orpheus and working in a traditional orchestra is dramatic. Says Palma, "I took one year off from Orpheus at the very beginning and went to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I just hated it. I didn't like to be told what to do all the time, being treated like I wasn't really worth anything other than to be a good soldier and just sit there and do as I was told. I felt powerless to affect things, particularly when they were not going well. I felt frustrated, and there was nothing I could seem to do to help make things better. Orpheus keeps me involved. I have some measure of participation in the direction the music is going to take. I think that's why a lot of us have stayed involved for so long."

Unlike most orchestras, whose conductors wield full and unquestioned authority over the musicians playing under their baton, Orpheus musicians decide for themselves who will lead the group, how a piece of music will be played, who will be invited to join their ranks, and who will represent them on the board of trustees and within management. The group's administrators do not impose their vision on the musicians, and disagreements that cannot be resolved through Orpheus's regular process of discussion and consensus-building are ultimately settled by a vote of all of the members of the orchestra.

2. Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality.

Because Orpheus has no conductor and therefore no single person to take responsibility for the quality of its performances, each member of the orchestra feels a very real and personal responsibility for the group's outcomes. Orpheus gives every individual the opportunity to lead, but it also creates an imperative that everyone pull together. Instead of focusing solely on perfecting their own approach to performance, each musician takes a personal interest in perfecting the performances of their colleagues and the overall sound of the orchestra. It is therefore not uncommon for a violinist to comment on the playing of a flutist, or the timpani player to comment on a cellist's approach to phrasing or bowing. In a regular, conducted orchestra, not only would such crossing of organizational lines be unwelcome, it would be unthinkable.

3. Create clarity of roles.

While leadership within Orpheus is not fixed with any one particular person or position, the organization's members have clear roles in addition to their jobs as musicians, administrators, or members of the board of trustees. For each piece of music, for example, the musicians elect one person to serve as concertmaster, the person appointed to lead the group in rehearsal and performance. Some members of the orchestra serve on the board, others represent the musicians within the group's administration, and still others participate in formal and informal teams. All roles are communicated widely throughout the organization.

4. Foster horizontal teamwork.

Says Peter Drucker, "No knowledge ranks higher than another; each is judged by its contribution to the common task rather than by any inherent superiority or inferiority. Therefore, the modern organization cannot be an organization of boss and subordinate. It must be organized as a team."

Because no one person has all the answers to every question that may arise within the orchestra, Orpheus relies on horizontal teams -- both formal and informal -- to tap the expertise of all of its members. These teams are horizontal because members are not artificially limited to focusing their attention on only very narrow issues or opportunities; members of teams within Orpheus naturally reach across organizational boundaries to obtain input, act on opportunities, solve problems, or make decisions. Says violinist Martha Caplin, "We're all specialists, that's the beginning of the discussion. When I talk to another performer or another musician in the group, it's on an equal level. It's absolutely crucial that we all have that attitude."

Leaders should be aware that not every team is an effective team, and they must work to ensure that the members of teams take positive steps to ensure their own effectiveness. John Lubans, deputy university librarian at Duke University, has studied Orpheus's workings, and in a report published in the Duke University Libraries Information Bulletin in 1997, he cites a variety of reasons for why teamwork is effective within the group. He notes that the purpose and mission for the team are clear and understood by each team member; members' team roles are stated, agreed upon, and understood; all members work an equal amount doing real work in the team; members pay attention to how they work together; outcomes drive the purpose of the team; deadlines are stated and respected; teams receive demonstrable support; teams are accountable to the organization and its leaders; and each team knows its interdependence with other teams and does everything to support those other teams. These rules are valid for any team, not just those within Orpheus.

5. Share and rotate leadership

In most organizations leadership is fixed, that is, leadership authority is formally vested in certain positions and not in others. Managers are by definition leaders and workers are expected to be followers. The higher up the organization chart an individual's position resides, the more power he or she wields. Fixing leadership in positions rather than in people wastes the leadership potential within employees whose positions are not a part of the organization's formal leadership hierarchy. This potential is often ignored or discarded, and occasionally punished.

Sharing and rotating leadership among all the orchestra's musicians is the heart and soul of the Orpheus Process. While most orchestras fix leadership authority within one particular position, the conductor, Orpheus takes a different approach. Whenever the orchestra decides to take on a new piece of music, the group appoints one of its members to lead the development of the piece. The leader is selected on the basis of what skills and knowledge he or she brings to the piece -- someone who is expert in baroque music will be selected to lead a Handel selection, someone who is particularly knowledgeable about twentieth century composers will take on a Stravinsky piece. In this way, leadership is shared and rotated among the different members of the group, and the strengths of individual members of the group are brought to the fore.

6. Learn to listen, learn to talk.

The members of Orpheus know the power of communication, and it is the lifeblood of the organization. Not only are members expected to listen to one another's views and opinions, and to respect what is said and the person who said it -- whether or not they agree with what is being said -- members are also expected to talk. But there is a right time and a wrong time to talk. According to Orpheus violinist Eriko Sato, "Fundamentally, I don't think everybody's opinion should be addressed at all times. There are certain places and times for certain things to be said -- the appropriate moment. Everybody knows what's wrong, everybody can feel what's wrong -- but do you have a solution? Do you know how to solve a problem?"

No topic is considered out of bounds for the members of the group, and constructive criticism is always welcome. This freedom of expression is surprising when one realizes that orchestral musicians are trained from an early age specifically not to offer their opinions to the group and instead to defer to the direction of the conductor. Few conductors welcome the suggestions of the musicians working under their baton, most actively discourage them. In Orpheus, two-way communication is expected, fostered, and reinforced almost constantly.

7. Seek consensus (and build creative systems that favor consensus).

As an increasing number and variety of employees become involved in their organizations' decision-making processes, and as organizations become less autocratic and more democratic, achieving consensus on decisions becomes more important. Consensus, which derives from the Latin word for "shared thought," requires a high level of participation and trust among the members of an organization. Employees must be willing to listen to the views of others and to be flexible and willing to compromise on their own positions.

Traditionally, as the importance of a decision increases, the number of people involved in it decreases in direct proportion. An organization's most important decisions are most often made by its top management team, usually without input from line workers. This is most certainly not the case in Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In Orpheus, the more important the decision to the organization, the more people are involved in it. But involving more people in the process doesn't dilute the final result, it strengthens it. Violinist Ronnie Bauch is quoted in Christopher Hoenig's The Problem Solving Journey saying, "What you get isn't a watered-down, middle-of-the-road kind of interpretation which you could easily imagine -- you know, General Motors decides to interpret music -- but you get interpretations of extraordinary originality."

In an organization such as Orpheus where positional power is minimal, and where leadership is not fixed, the ability of leaders to build consensus and to convince others to support their opinions is paramount. Without consensus, little can be accomplished in the organization.

8. Dedicate passionately to your mission.

Passion is the spark that can make an ordinary organization great -- and a great organization truly exceptional. When employees are passionate about the jobs they do, the organizations they work for, and the customers they serve, there is little that they cannot accomplish.

This passion, however, sometimes boils over, causing more than a few arguments and heated exchanges. According to violist Nardo Poy in The Problem Solving Journey, "There are times in rehearsal, because of the way we work, the intensity, the directness, often we do get pretty emotional, angry at each other. And yet, when our rehearsal is over, that's pretty much it, for the most part it's over. Either right after rehearsal or the next day, you're still friends." Because musicians in Orpheus feel free to express themselves with one another, resentments and feuds rarely have an opportunity to develop. This results in an environment where all the members of the organization are focused on one thing: producing the very best product possible.

A measure of the passion that Orpheus's members feel for their organization is the fact that although the majority of them also play for other groups, including the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, and teach at schools such as Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, they consider playing for Orpheus to be their most fulfilling musical experience.

By removing the position of conductor from the organization, New York City-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has unleashed an incredible amount of leadership from its members. While the organization and its structures keep evolving, this Grammy-award-winning group continues to perform at the top of its game -- a level of excellence that few other orchestras can approach. And, as long as Orpheus relies on its own members to guide and energize the group, it's likely that this will be the case for many years to come.

Quotations from musicians come from Leadership Ensemble, by Harvey Seifter and Peter Economy (Henry Holt & Company, 2001), except where otherwise noted.

The Orpheus Process

The Orpheus Process translates the communal creativity of a small, four-piece chamber music group -- where each musician has an equal voice in determining how a piece of music will be played -- into the much larger and more complex setting of an orchestra. The Orpheus Process comprises five key elements:

  1. Choosing Leaders. For each piece of music Orpheus performs, a committee of musicians chosen by orchestra members selects a concertmaster, the first-chair violinist. The orchestra's members also select a leadership team of five to seven players, called the core. In Orpheus, the concertmaster anchors the core, leads performances, and works closely with all the musicians to develop a unified vision for the music. Each instrumental section (cello, oboe, and so on) selects individuals to represent it within the core.
  2. Developing Strategies. Before a piece of music is taken to the full orchestra, the core meets to decide how it will be played. The goal: developing an overall interpretive approach to the music. The core accomplishes this goal through rehearsals where many different approaches can be tried in a streamlined fashion.
  3. Developing the Product. After the core is satisfied with its chosen approach to the piece, it is taken to the full orchestra to be rehearsed and refined even further. Musicians from throughout the orchestra make suggestions to improve the piece and critique the playing of their colleagues. When disagreements arise, as they do in any organization, the orchestra members work to reach consensus. If consensus cannot be reached within a reasonable period of time, then a vote is taken and the issue is settled.
  4. Perfecting the Product. Immediately before every concert, one or two members of the orchestra are selected to go out into the hall and listen to the group as the audience will hear it. These musicians report back to the entire group and suggest final adjustments and refinements based on the actual sound of the full orchestra.
  5. Delivering the Product. The final step is performance, the ultimate result of the Orpheus Process. The Orpheus Process does not end here, however. After every concert, participants informally discuss their impressions of the performance and make suggestions for further adjustments and refinements -- all with an eye to improving subsequent performances of the piece.

Seifter, Harvey "The Conductor-less Orchestra" Leader to Leader. 21 (Summer 2001): 38-44.

Copyright © 2001 by Harvey Seifter. Reprinted with permission from Leader to Leader, a publication of the Leader to Leader Institute and Jossey-Bass.


Democracy in Education: Kevin Avison reviews an article by Phillip Woods

Leadership and Governance in Waldorf Education


There is a general view that Waldorf school are purely "republican" organisations. The following review of Philip Woods book challenges that idea. I think the schools need democracy in order to be republican. In my view Ernst Lehr's little essay has resulted in misunderstandings that sometimes cost our schools dear...
Review of “ Democratic Leadership in Education” – Philip A Woods (PCP 2005) – A Steiner Waldorf Perspective

Books about leadership have the propensity of super-fertile rabbits, & educational leadership is a fecund sub-species. That’s not to say that the subject lacks the importance it has acquired, merely that much that is published tends to a rabbit-ual sameness, adding more holes to the warren while further depleting the bio-diversity of the subject. Philip Woods’ book is an exception to this: not another bunny, but a welcome academic fox, which like Ted Hughes’s thought-fox, signifies more than his bark.

This is also a book that deserves discussion by those concerned with governance, management & leadership in Steiner Waldorf schools. It is striking that among the many books recently published in English on the subject of Waldorf quality development, awkward questions of who leads & what leadership in a collegial organisation is are seldom addressed, or receive only superficial treatment. One of the results of this involves implanting a crude notion of “line management” into a professional culture that clings to rather vague principles of “collegiality”, resulting in innumerable inner contradictions & not infrequent injustice. Our continental colleagues also seem generally to regard leadership as a “difficult” question, a hot potato best left to grow cold & fester, sometimes leaving the starchiest questions in the hands of “school director” or “business manager”. Unfortunately, in such a climate, calls for greater “accountability” or sermonising on the need for “trust”, may amount to mere wishful thinking or word-spinning. Unless genuine leadership is practiced in each realm of the schools’ organisation, the core activity is left under-supported & older students grow disappointed at the ineffectiveness of the adult community. It may be that some readers begin to feel uneasy at the use of the words “leader” or “leadership” when speaking about Waldorf schools, if so, that uneasiness is what this essay is about.

There remains a common misconception that Waldorf education & leadership belong in different dimensions; that Steiner schools operate according to “flat management” (a concept rarely explained, still less justified) & that leadership inevitably involves “hierarchy” (which, it seems is always & forever, a bad thing, also rarely explained!). The consequence of such thinking is to reduce by one the dimensions of social space. A Waldorfian equivalent of disc-world, or flat-land, replaces one in which differentiation & depth is valued. To increase the general confusion, it is usually opined that Waldorf schools are “republican, not democratic”, a statement that derives from an essay by Ernst Lehrs[1], who has the authority of having been among the first generation of Waldorf teachers (though not one of the twelve founding teachers). This is a particularly problematic use of words for schools in the United States, but setting such local difficulties aside, the usual interpretation of the “republican” principle goes on to claim that the teachers lead the school & adds further refinement to the problem by reserving (especially in the UK) primacy to the “College of Teachers” (a phrase Rudolf Steiner never used[2]), & which may exclude many or even most staff members. Strained notions of “the College” give rise to difficulty on many levels. In the context of the UK regulatory structure & charity law, unhandy compromises or over-zealous dogmatism can involve so many perceived & actual conflicts, contradictions & uncertain consequences that discussion typically sinks to its axels in threefold theorising or claims that the teachers must have primacy in all things. The title of Philip Woods’ book then already raises a number of issues for Waldorf educators & it will be best to start here, meeting the democratic dilemma & what leadership means in a “republican” context head on.

Early on in Lehr’s essay[3] he adds a footnote about the apparent conflict between his argument & Steiner’s use of the phrase “republican-democratic” (see Conferences January 16th 1921). Lehr’s notes this phrase, dismissing it, however, on the grounds that “this formulation was meant to be used for the ‘general public’”, a strange solipsism given that Steiner was speaking to an internal meeting of the faculty. In fact, Lehr’s has to qualify his dismissal of democracy later by characterising it in terms that show he is thinking of “the modern concept of parliament with its various systems of representation of group interests by elected representatives based on majority vote”[4]. He then goes on to describe a democratic process whereby “officers” of the school are elected: “the faculty thus creates a hierarchy of officers, but subsequently abstains from further democratic relations with them” (my italics). In this way, Lehr’s argues, the quality of “aristos” (“the officers constitute an aristocracy by whose decisions the ‘folk’… [demos]…have to abide”[5]) is established & with it the republican character of the constitution. Thus for Lehrs, a republican median is to be found between “democracy” (rule by all – “folk-rule”) & “oligarchy” (rule by the few):
…”there is the danger on the part of the officers that their rightful aristocracy degenerates into oligarchy, since in order to safeguard their freedom of action, they may not sufficiently inform the community, or evade discussion[6]

Neither Woods nor Lehrs provide specific solutions or working procedures to solve the practical problems all this entails. While Lehrs is concerned with qualities, Woods’ more academic approach supplies the reader with a number of highly differentiated conceptual frameworks to help understand how different types of democracy & leadership relate on the test-bed of education. Whereas Lehrs, in common with a majority of writers from within the anthroposophical movement, avoids the question who leads & what the nature of that leadership might be, Woods provides a number of perspectives from which these questions can be viewed. Taking sociology as his starting point (one sees the influence of the tradition stemming from Max Weber in particular), Philip Woods is far less cavalier than Lehrs in assuming that democracy is a single type of organisation or relationship, indeed, he offers as the essence of democracy a quote from R. Williams’ Culture & Society[7] “how people govern themselves, as opposed to how they are governed by others”, something that should ring bells for Waldorf educators concerned with “self-administrating” schools. In fact, Woods characterises four types of democracy, the first of which is closest to Lehrs version, while the second & third contain many of the aspects of republican constitution as Lehrs sketches it. A fourth transformation is, I believe, one that has enormous practical potential for anyone seeking to real-ise Rudolf Steiner’s social intentions regarding communal & pedagogical leadership. These four types of democracy are:
· Liberal minimalism
· Civic republicanism
· Deliberative democracy
· Developmental democracy
While each of these involves a transcending of the possibilities of the preceding type, each one builds on its predecessor. While liberal democracy is mainly concerned with the protection of self-interest, & civic republicanism involves emphasis on the interest of the collective (this is the classical dispute between capitalist & socialistic modes), deliberative & developmental democracy introduce social discourse & social pedagogical (the “unity in diversity” sought by Gandhi added to the “polis” as educator of its citizens proposed by Plato). Within these can be found potential for a healing of conflict between social & fiscal liberalism, between individual & communitarian approaches. The associative relationships envisaged by Steiner’s threefold social order may, in fact, be unobtainable without a developmental form of democracy.

Philip Woods is very clear about the limitations of “distributive leadership”, contrasting this with “democratic leadership” in a way that should put us in mind of the reasons Rudolf Steiner gave for the staff taking control of their own work. Distributed leadership (as encouraged by the National College of School Leadership) assumes a point of leadership (head teacher, principal) from which the process of distribution precedes & (in extremis) to which it can return. Democratic leadership, as characterised by Woods is far closer to the intentions of Waldorf, collegial, leadership (also called “associative leadership”) because it involves shared governance of equal, free leaders working for a common task. In the case of education, that task is both transcendent & implicitly developmental in practice. Thus, this form of leadership calls for a firm framework of moral transformation. Lehrs too, points to something similar. He quotes what Rudolf Steiner proposed as a motto for spiritually responsible collaboration, “to sacrifice freedom for the sake of higher freedom”, a situation encapsulated in Lehr’s account of the “republican attitude” of two colleagues speaking critically about the order of the programme for a school festival. When asked why they hadn’t tried to change the order of the programme themselves, Lehrs was told, “Once a job has been given to one of us, we must abide by their decision”. The perfectionist might prefer the collegial support to extend to a silencing of off-stage complaints, but the aspiration is refreshingly modest & commonsensical.

Democratic Leadership in Education reminds the reader that collegial decision-making is subject to a number of potential problems: ineffective, time-consuming debate; differentials in terms of commitment, capacity, or willingness to participate; implicit differences (unacknowledged & thus intractable) in power or status; lack of internal critique or challenge. Without work on the processes that sustain & are sustained by effective, affective relationships within the school community, the sort of leadership Steiner schools aspire to becomes inordinately risky. Many schools suffer from constant second guessing of the responsibilities carried by others. The lack of “firm framing” that would ensure the giving of responsibility as a conscious decision, not simply a process of default, leads to endless conflict & wasted time & energy. Lack of knowledge of what is involved in a responsibility provides opportunity for fruitless criticism & destructive interference. Without the methods & courtesies of democracy, “republican” leadership remains a mere echo of what Steiner intended. A collegiate that abdicates responsibility to the loudest or superficially competent colleagues may soon find itself in thrall to collegial tyranny, & inaction can condemn a school to years of in-fighting, crisis & incoherence.

No school exists in isolation & the success of a distinctive form of education like that of Steiner schools, depends on creating a practical basis for unity in diversity. The fundamental task of a Collegiate in that context is to look to the education of the whole community starting with the professional community itself, but never excluding friends, supporters, parents as potential collegial learners. That, I suggest, is the essential nature of the developmental democracy that should inform (provide firm framing for) Steiner Waldorf schools[8]. A “republicanism”, or might we call it a “federation” of remit holders/responsibility carriers can then be sustained within clear, accountable & transparent procedures which include timescale, budgetary constraints, the nature of any necessary consultation & a schedule of competencies (whether required or to be acquired). The very complexity of our society & its ever-increasing regulation is both challenge & opportunity. If Waldorf education is to continue to serve the needs of coming generations as a creative process, school leadership will need to become more conscious & precise. The contribution of writers like Philip Woods, should spur us to see the development of social skill as essential as those needed directly in the classroom. Rudolf Steiner’s assertion that this would make for a teaching team more grounded & better equipped to teach children should always balance with service to core the task of the school, but that service is itself predicated upon relationships & capacities that cannot be developed outside of a democratic context.

Kevin Avison 6th February 2006
[1] Republican – Not Democratic E Lehrs 1987 (AWSNA) Lehrs suggests that this phrase was used by Steiner in a “missing” section of the transcript of a teachers’ conference 23rd January 1923, a remark he adds remembered b6 “at least several of those present”. Those interested in the theme would do well to study carefully the context in which these words were possibly said & then consider what, if anything, they add to the record. There are a number of inconsistencies & uncertainties in the text of the Conferences – a visit to the Steiner archive in Dornach is most instructive when considering these matters. In the light of Democratic Leadership & with regard to this essay, the apposite question might be, “what sort of democracy & what sort of republicanism” was Steiner referring to & what do Waldorf schools need more than eighty years after the founding of the first school?
[2] See Republican Academies F. Gladstone 1997 (SWSF) - the 2001 edition of this book includes an explanation of this on its title page.
[3] See note 1 – p1
[4] Ibid p4
[5] Ibid p5
[6] Ibid p7
[7] R.Williams, 1963 - Harmondsworth, Penguin
[8] We should note here the very close connection between the founding of the first school & the workers education class organised by Emil Molt at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory to which Rudolf Steiner contributed.


Editorial Policies

LeadTogether is dedicated to stimulating discussion and making resources available about governance, leadership and organization development related to Waldorf schools and training centers.

Resource use:

Free Materials from other sources

These resources will be available on our site with credit given to the authors and publishers and links to the original source. We will make every attempt to contact and get permission from authors for free distribution of their work.

Material for purchase from other sites

These materials will be available for purchase through our bookstore which is associated with other booksellers.

Materials generated by LeadTogether

These materials will be available as read only to visitors to our site and free to subscribers to read, download and share.


Subcribing members can comment on INFOCUS posts and may post or comment in their forum.

Writing offered for posts will be reviewed by the editors and should meet the following criteria.

Related to governance, leadership or organization of Waldorf Schools and Training Centers.

Promoting a positive point of view.

Following common rules of style.

Non-commercial in nature

Editors may reject submissions or may ask contributors for various levels of rewrite for any materials, posts or comments contributed to the site.