Ask Professor Naftaly (Tuli) Glasman, who is celebrating his 40th year at UC Santa Barbara, if you can teach someone to be a leader and he unequivocally replies, “You can make somebody become a leader – we have that in us. Some of us can become one without anybody’s help but the majority of us must acquire traits in addition to what we have inherently.”
Glasman knows of what he speaks, as he led the Graduate School of Education (before it was the Gevirtz School) as its Dean from 1980-87. He has also chaired over 60 Ph.D. dissertations, students who have gone on to become principals, superintendents, deans, assistant chancellors.
Throughout his career his scholarship and publications have gone through two gradual shifts: first, from the study of educational administrative politics to the study of educational evaluation as an administrative function, and more recently from educational evaluation to the study of innate and acquired leadership traits, behaviors, and outcomes. That more recent research led to his book, co-authored with his wife Lynette Glasman, The Expert School Leader: Accelerating Accountability (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).
The book shatters some prevailing myths, none more so than the notion that a principal should be a generalist. “I determined eight demands principals face,” he explains, “pressures that led directly to accountability. If things don’t go right with these demands, people say, ‘Show me the villain.’ Once I identified those, I transformed each into a leader’s challenge. My theory was the best answers I could get would be from people who spent all day facing that challenge.”
For instance, Glasman conducted a thorough interview with an airline captain as a way to discover the crucial competencies to achieve predetermined goals, interviewed a hospital chaplain to discover the best ways to provide emotional comfort, etc. But that book is just the first step in his examination of teaching leadership. As he puts it, “I could imagine someone saying to me, ‘OK, Glasman, you have identified eight sets of skills to enhance accountability – you’re telling me they can all be learned in a preparation program?’”
To answer such a person, he’s in the middle of a three to four year study to determine the stages in a person’s life when he or she can become aware of, and learn to adapt, the eight sets of skills. “What does a twenty-five year old know about ethics? A forty-five year old?” he wonders. “We’re finding some values are innate, about justice and so forth, but others are acquired. So where in these stages can you work on capitalizing on the innate or acquiring traits that aren’t?” Glasman hopes by answering these questions, some day “people will say this might have been a turn in studying school leadership because someone tried to connect all the pressures with ethics.”
Glasman defines leadership as “simultaneously being able to walk ahead of followers and alongside followers – you need the vision to lead, but if you can’t walk alongside people they’re not with you.” Through his cross-discipline research and ability to aid a generation of leaders to earn their doctorates, Glasman has accomplished both of these tricky, necessary tasks.