Leadership Roles

At a keynote presentation at the annual PASCD conference, Dr. Chris Moersch referenced an older article by Philip Schlechty entitled, On the frontier of school reform with trailblazers, pioneers and settlersIn the article, Schlechty proposes five types of roles people assume throughout the change process.

  • Trailblazers – independent and don’t need a map. The stories trailblazers tell will inspire others to explore, but they often run into struggles as they implement change.
  • Pioneers – easy to inspire. They want to move to the new way and move closely behind the trailblazers.
  • Settlers – willing to make a change but need to see the roadmap of how the journey will go and see what plans there are for safety and troubleshooting in times of trouble.
  • Stay-at-homers – do not intend to go to the new way because they are successful where they are. The danger is that signs of disrespect or trouble will cause them to “dig in” deeper.
  • Sabateurs – actively committed to stopping change. They do not plan to go and will work to stop others from going.

From a leadership perspective, I find these very interesting to understand all sorts of stakeholders around me, especially school leaders. The descriptions help to provide some clarity as to why people operate the way they do when confronted with change.

How would you describe yourself as a leader? Which category is most applicable? Under which kinds of change?


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