Simple definition of Leadership…

From Beyond Code by Rajesh Setty:

“Leadership is not tied to a position. If you want to lead, look for the gaps in your organization and start trying to fill them. Leadership can be as simple as filling in the blanks.” (pg. 5)


How creative are educators?

The last time I blogged, I asked the question – How passionate are educators? It seems like I’m on a bit of a rant about educators, particularly educational leaders with the addition of today’s question – How creative are educators?

Michael Hyatt recently suggested 7 Ways Successful Creatives Think Differently Than Unsuccessful Ones. As I read his list, I couldn’t help but direct my thinking toward those I think matter a great deal in transforming our system – school leaders. A few of the seven suggestions that had meaning for me…

  1. Successful creatives think big. How much big thinking do we really see in education? BIG THINKING. Big thinking, along the lines of second order, adaptive change? Not enough in my opinion. While we have a handful of strong voices on the internet arguing for major changes in the system, I find that so many of those in formal school leadership positions don’t think big enough about the changes that are needed. Why is this? Is it mindset? Are leaders aware of how some schools are transforming? Are we just lazy?
  2. Successful creatives seek help. The classroom level isn’t the only place where professionalism is isolated. It’s a rampant problem at the principal and central office level, too. It’s easy for us to get mired down in the day-to-day operations of carrying out the tasks of the job, often in isolation. Why is this? Again, is it mindset? How do some people accomplish thinking big, connecting with others, and carrying out the necessary functional tasks of the job? I do think a big issue is how we view collaboration. It doesn’t always need to be face-to-face. Most leaders are woefully unable and unfamiliar with ways to develop an online presence and connections with peers and experts digitally
  3. Successful creatives work hard. Being a leader is time consuming work. If you believe in process rather than check-list leadership, it requires conversation, reflection, decision-making and action in collaboration with others. To work through the process is hard work – and time-consuming work. Are our school leaders really committed to working hard and doing whatever it takes to get the job done? What short cuts do we take? The greater question – are we even doing the right job. This goes back to the idea of thinking big.

There are more suggestions than the ones I connected with in this post, so be sure to check out the article. Maybe you can make some additional connections.

Thinking big. Seeking help. Working hard. Don’t get me wrong. We do have many school leaders that achieve in these areas and more. I see the large majority, though, falling short when it comes to these three ways. I wonder how we will change that. Do we start with mindset? Where are the models? How can we learn from them?

How passionate are educators?

This may seem like a cynical post, but I’ve run across several resources the past few days that  have me reflecting on my own passion as an educational leader and wondering how passionate we are as a profession.

You may have seen Ken Robinson’s first TED talk – Do Schools Kill Creativty? In this talk, Sir Ken shares his vision where adults and students alike pursue a life filled with passions. His book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything shares the same theme.

Earlier today, I ran across a post – 7 Harsh Truths They Don’t Tell You About Following Your Passions. Check out the post, but here is the list version of the main ideas:

  • Hard Work
  • Persistence
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Action
  • Determination
  • Fulfillment

Most people would find at least the first four ideas to be less than appealing. And I see this all the time in education – in the things I read online; in the people I encounter on a daily basis. I wonder, how many of us in education really have a passion for teaching and learning? How hard are we working? What is “working hard”? How persistent are we to improve and create opportunities for our students that reflect what we envision? Are we so deeply passionate about learning that we are willing to face the fear of failure? How do we deal with our confusion, especially in front of our peers and our students? How do our actions embody our passion? How determined are we when things don’t go as planned? How often do we feel fulfilled after the pursuit of our passion? I ask these questions about myself and about my profession.

Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education

A recent Forbes article of the same title by Steven Denning resonated with me. It emphasized the role of leadership (at all levels), particularly in moving the focus of our actions as leaders away from “the system” and back to the learners. In addition, the current focus on the system does not take into account our changing global context.

“The inapplicablity of these methods is aggravated by the changes in the economy. Not so long ago, we could predict what jobs and careers might be available for children in their adult life. The education system could tell little Freddie or Janet what to study and if he or she mastered that, he or she was set for life. Not any more. We simply don’t know what jobs will be there in twenty years time. Today, apart from a few core skills like reading, writing, math, thinking, imagining and creating, we cannot know what knowledge or skills will be needed when Freddie or Janet grows up.”

Our greatest challenge as school leaders is to mold a system that focuses on the learner, while carefully navigating the minefield that is “the system.” Denning’s article prompted me to revisit my own vision for learning. Do our school leaders have an articulated philosophy….a vision of what they believe in and where they want to lead? How much does that vision reflect a traditional top-down management style mentioned by Denning? But more importantly, how do leaders’ actions reinforce a demoralizing factory model of management or leadership for learning? These are worthy questions for all of our school leaders to ponder.