Guest Blog: Culturally Courageous Leadership by John Robert Browne

Culturally courageous leadership (CCL) is an imperative for historically underserved  students to experience equitable opportunities and outcomes.  Equitable opportunities are qualitatively and quantitatively different than equal opportunities, and are based on what students need, as opposed to being solely based on whether they receive the same opportunities as other student groups. When there are deeply felt beliefs about the need to treat all students the same and not “see color,” they reflect barriers to personal and organizational equity transformation that must be overcome.  However, unless educational leaders at district and school site levels who are committed to equity have political savvy in addition to political will, they are not likely to successfully navigate any political landmines when pursuing equity.  For example, three potential barriers are institutional, cultural, and/or aversive racism, as reflected in personal attitudes and organizational norms.

CCL by all school community stakeholders is a bold new leadership paradigm that requires more substantive participation in equity initiatives by student, parent, and community representatives, in addition to staff at district and school site levels.  There is a need for all stakeholder groups, representing all cultural/ethnic groups, to provide their data-based perspectives and participate in distributed leadership, using rubrics influenced by equity research.  Close scrutiny is needed of the extent to which culturally responsive opportunity to learn, delivery, and professional development standards are given priority by policy makers and practitioners when attempting to achieve equity, as well as to whether content and performance standards that are utilized support cultural democracy.  Also, any allegations of bias or discrimination in educational practice need to be thoroughly investigated.  Such scrutiny and investigations would reflect cultural courageousness, since they require embedding & institutionalizing assessment protocols that are not bound by personal predilections for or allegiance to cultural hegemony.

The three values underlying the CCL paradigm are as follows:
•    Schools have a responsibility to promote social justice.
•    All students, especially those who have been historically underserved, have an equal right to cultural democracy.
•    Elimination of cultural hegemony is a high priority.

The four components of the CCL paradigm are:
•    Collaborative leadership for equity by all school community stakeholders
•    Seven principles of culturally courageous leadership
•    Pursue both personal and organizational transformation
•    Adeptly navigate the politics of implementation

Equity leaders must walk their talk, and they must do this collaboratively, to the extent possible, in order to achieve and sustain equitable outcomes as well as greater accountability, trust and team effort.  This is more likely to occur when culturally courageous leadership is provided by persons in all stakeholder groups.


Dr. John Robert Browne II, author of Walking the Equity Talk, is a former administrator at both county and school district levels, and university lecturer.

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