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Lim, Lee Hean
This research study provides an understanding of mentoring for leadership development of middle managers in Singapore primary schools. Development of leadership competencies of middle managers in schools is important to ensure that schools are effective and sustainable (Wise, 2001; Bush 2009; Koh, Gurr, Drysdale, & Ang, 2010). Mentoring for principals has been vastly explored and investigated for its significance and benefits in developing leadership skills, confidence in the role and positive outcomes in organisations (Buck, 2004; Jones, 2006; Devine, Meyers, & Houssemand, 2013). There is paucity of research on mentoring for leadership development of middle managers in schools and this research has explored this area through examining perceptions of middle managers in Singapore primary schools. It has adopted a qualitative methodology with purposeful sampling of middle managers from different primary schools. Twenty participants of the Management and Leadership Studies (MLS) at National Institute of Education (NIE) were interviewed. The study aims to explore three key research questions: (i) What is mentoring for leadership development of middle managers? (ii) How does mentoring affect leadership development of middle managers? (iii) What are the benefits and challenges in mentoring for leadership development of middle managers? Aligning to these research questions, three themes have emerged from the findings of the study: understanding of mentoring, effectiveness of mentoring and enhancement of mentoring.
In the study, the findings from participants’ perception revealed the understanding of mentoring structure, expectations and outcomes. Most of the participants perceived mentoring as unstructured and their expectations of mentoring were to provide guidance for the role, support for leadership growth and development of leadership skills. There was an expectation to learn how to develop and manage people better through mentoring too. The effectiveness of mentoring discussed in this study was based on participants’ responses on the benefits, challenges and considerations for mentoring. Based on the findings, the researcher concluded the efficacy of mentoring was dependent on the existence of a defined structure, time availability, support from school leaders and the capacity, capability and credibility of mentor. This study also revealed the key benefits of mentoring for middle managers: development of effective leadership skills, confidence and personal strength in leadership. In addition, effective mentoring was also perceived to benefit the school in the sustainability, continuity and commitment of the leadership role. Main challenges in mentoring were also identified: absence of structure, role demands on mentors and mentees, lack of good suitable mentors, different perceptions and expectations in mentoring. The research findings imply that although benefits of mentoring can yield many possible positive outcomes, there was a need to address challenges in the mentoring structure and relationship. Therefore, it is recommended to structure the mentoring process with defined roles and expectations, provide opportunities for mentoring beyond schools and differentiate mentoring to cater to the different needs of middle managers in leadership development.
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