The missing hat?

From the perspective of educational leadership, ideas in business books can often be applied to our own practice. In fact, the fun of reading books such as Good to Great, Leadership Vertigo and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is finding nuggets of ideas to transfer to educational leadership. It’s almost always possible and not all that difficult.

One of the ideas shared in Michael E. Gerbers book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do about It is the notion that every business owner (i.e. educational leader) wears three hats:

  • Entrepreneur – the visionary
  • Technician – technical expert
  • Manager – the pragmatic

Thinking about this idea of three hats, I began to ask myself questions about my own practice:

  • Which hat do I prefer?
  • Which hat do I give most of my time to?
  • Do I neglect any hat? What are the dangers of neglecting a hat?

I also thought about some questions in relation to education and leadership in general?

  • Where are most educational leaders comfortable? Why?
  • Where are they least comfortable? Why?
  • What if we focused more on one and less on another? Would anything change? Would we get closer to our vision for teaching and learning?
  • What is the preference of the policymaker? And if different from practitioners, why and what can we do to mitigate the disorientation of an overemphasis on one hat over another?
  • Do we have additional hats in the domain of educational leadership?

As I’ve been thinking a lot lately about innovation in education (so that is the lens through which I’m tinkering with these hats at the moment), I think most of us lack the entrepreneurial hat and overemphasize the technical and managerial hats. Those two hats keep us in our comfort zone. We establish structures (or they’ve long been established as status quo) and we just need to follow a set of steps to implement them. Black and white. Year in. Year out. There is very little messiness. And virtually no risk. And every outcome is quantifiable. The entrepreneurial hat can be a bit scary. We venture into unchartered territory (new teaching practices, new technologies, etc.). It’s messy. There is risk and sometimes failure. There is criticism.

What if we as educational leaders wore our entrepreneurial hat more often? How do we support current leaders to aim for more of balance between the three hats? How are we preparing future leaders (in credentialing programs) to be educational entrepreneurs?

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