Teach & Serve III, No. 19 – Humility

Teach & Serve III, No. 19 – Humility

December 13, 2017

I want humility to be the heart of my servant leadership. It is the key.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have had opportunity to consider – deeply – what I believe are the core qualities that make up a good leader, a leader that truly serves others. I have had hours of conversation on the topic, have spent hours in preparation for those discussions and have given hours of reflection following those talks.

As one might imagine, this has been a wonderful pursuit for I truly enjoy discussing educational leadership and I find myself further and more deeply energized the more fully the topic is explored.

At one point in these conversations, I was asked to distill good leadership to one quality – the quality I believe is the most essential in an excellent educational leader.

That was a very good question and one that, perhaps I should have taken more time to answer than I did. The reality was, when I was asked the question, one quality immediately came to my mind and was out of my mouth before I knew it.

Humility.  

When I consider my leadership journey and all the experiences – wonderful, terrible and everywhere in between – that journey has afforded me and I reflect on the most salient takeaways I have gained, humility emerges at the top of the list of the most critical qualities of a leader.

It would take much time for me to enumerate the many lessons I had to work through which helped me learn that I want and need to keep humility at the center of my leadership. I could discuss the times I thought I knew better than the wisdom of the room, the times I got ahead of myself and ahead of process, the times I was embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and was afraid to admit that I was not the smartest person in the room and that I did not have all the answers.

I have blogged about many of these experiences in the past. Each and all of them have taught me that the key component of my leadership and the quality I strive to keep foremost in my approach to it is humility.

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom said Gandhi. If that is true, and I believe that it is, it is wise, then, to embrace the wisdom of others and to do so in humble humility.

I want humility to be the heart of my servant leadership. It is the key.

EduQuote of the Week: December 11 – 17, 2017

Human Rights Week

Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.

– Pope Francis

Office Door Quotes 2

Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 9 – Jedi Hubris

Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 9

Jedi Hubris

Superheroic Leadership is a light-hearted examination of what superheroic figures have to teach about leadership and what I have learned from their adventures.


I know more than I want to know about The Last Jedi. When you run in the circles in which I run, information about upcoming movies is hard to avoid. I have been in a media blackout for over a month on this film and I still know too much!

But there is one thing I know about the Jedi that I have known for a very long time. I have known this since I was a kid.

The Jedi are pompous jerks.

Seriously.

Think about it. They know all – or say they do. They claim to have access to special powers which you cannot access. They cut themselves off from personal attachments. They see the future but do not share their insights. They twist the truth to suit their needs (“what I told you was true from a certain point of view” anyone?).

And they kind of lord all this stuff over everyone with whom they interact.

Do you know any leaders like this?

Look, I like Luke and Mace and Obi Wan as much as the next geek but, come on!

The Jedi simply are not great leaders.

We learn more about leadership from them by not acting as they do.

In our leadership, a red light should flash when we feel as though we know all. We should hear warning sirens when we think we have access to things others do not and that is what makes us leaders. Likewise when we cut ourselves off from colleagues – from those we lead – we are headed down a bad road. And if we do not share all we know about what is coming in our institutions, we are more in love with the idea of leadership that we are with actually leading. Finally, when we twist the truth to influence those around us, we are on very thin ice from a prospective of effective leadership.

The Jedi are good. The Jedi are powerful. The Jedi helped save the galaxy a couple times.

But the Jedi are jerks. Hopefully we, as leaders, are not.

Teach & Serve III, No. 18 – There Are No Leaders Without Followers

Teach & Serve III, No. 18 – There Are No Leaders Without Followers

December 6, 2017

Our work reaches beyond us. It reaches through time. It reaches into the future.

If you are reading this blog, you are likely a school leader, a teacher or administrator. A further supposition is if you are reading this blog (and you are not my mother – Hi, Mom!), you are reading this blog because you think about your leadership, you reflect upon what you do and why you do it and it is also likely that you hope to improve.

Thinking about and reflecting upon our roles as leaders is a necessary part of our improvement process but we have to be careful not to simply think about what we do and how we do it. To be the best leaders we can be, we should spend a great deal of time considering those we lead.

A good leader understands that establishing rapport with those who are being led is a critical and necessary step in creating an environment wherein a leader can effectively serve. In order to foster legitimate rapport, a leader must establish community, interplay and trust with those being led.

A mistake that average leaders make is to assume that their position ensures that those being led will follow, that the title they hold is enough to inspire fealty, that the role they play is sufficient to get those being led to fall in line.

If that is you, good luck. You may well be able to drag people along with you because you are The Leader, but the experience of those you lead will be painful and they will not have loyalty to you but only loyalty to what you represent – to your position.

Excellent leaders understand this. Moreover, they would be concerned if they are followed simply because of their title or their position on the work chart. Leaders I wish to follow know that who they lead is at least as important as how they lead.

Understanding this is part of how they became excellent leaders in the first place.

EduQuote of the Week: December 4 – 10, 2017

Recipes for the Holidays Week

You don’t have to stick with these recipes. They’re guides. As I say, they’re a way in. Have fun with them. It’s an easier way to cook in a busy life, once you get the hang of it.

– Sally Schneider

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve III, No. 17 – Accountable to be Accountable

Teach & Serve III, No. 17

Accountable to be Accountable

November 29, 2017

When things go wrong, when they do not go as planned, when failure happens and when hands are thrown up all around, a leader steps forward and steps up. A leader holds herself accountable. A leader accepts responsibility.

Schools are complex places and, when things do go wrong, typically the reasons are myriad. Often many hands have played a part in an initiative that did not land well or a program that failed. Committees run off course and team-planned curricular designing gets derailed. Perhaps resources were lacking, or energy. Perhaps the plan was simply too ambitious. Perhaps someone did not pull his weight. There is little that can be counted upon in the day-to-day management and leadership of a school. One thing that can be counted upon is that the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men (an’ women!) gang aft agley.

When things go wrong, when they do not go as planned, when failure happens and when hands are thrown up all around, a leader steps forward and steps up. A leader holds herself accountable. A leader accepts responsibility.

This is a significant key to excellent leadership. The first move of the leader – be she a classroom teacher or an administrator – is to acknowledge the failure and to accept responsibility for it. Given the likely number of shoes that dropped in the context of any missed opportunity or fiasco, it would be possible for the leader to engage in (or join in) finger pointing. “It was not me. It was the committee. It was the too aggressive timeline. It was a lack of follow through.”

The reality is that all of that may be true. The committee may have dropped the ball. The timeline may have been overly optimistic. The follow through may have been lacking. But a leader does not, in the first instance, respond to failure by denying responsibility. A leader desires accountability.

There is time following failure to assess. There is time to identify problems and to fix them and to try again. There is time to analyze what went wrong to put things right. There is time.

Immediately following a failure is not that time. Immediately following a failure is time for the leader to say: “this is on me.”

A leader is accountable to be accountable.

Anything less is weak, can damage morale and can hinder teamwork.

EduQuote of the Week: November 27 – December 3, 2017

Game and Puzzle Week

Once I get on a puzzle, I can’t get off it.

– Richard P. Fennyman

Office Door Quotes 2

Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 8 – Let Go of Your Conscious Self

Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 8

Let Go of Your Conscious Self

Superheroic Leadership is a light-hearted examination of what superheroic figures have to teach about leadership and what I have learned from their adventures.


No matter how leadership is considered, I believe there is a truth which is difficult to avoid: good leaders are different. They are born with… something. They have… IT.

While individuals can grow in their leadership and skills of management and leadership can be learned, the good ones – the best ones – simply shine as leaders. When they enter a room, people look to them and say “show me the wall and I’ll run through it.”

This is Superheroic Leadership, so let us try something. Of these pairs, who would you follow:

Captain America or Iron Man

Batman or Superman

Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock

Black Widow or Wonder Woman

Frodo Baggins or Samwise Gamgee

Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger

While you may have had to think through a couple of these, my guess is your list went something like this: Cap, Superman, Kirk, Wonder Woman, Frodo and Hermione.

Why is that? The other characters are great, too (and I bet there are a few differences in your choices and mine) but they just do not project leader the way the others do.

Great leaders are born with something. They are born with a leadership instinct that they learn to trust and that they are careful to develop. Great leaders are able to react to challenging situations quickly, to lead others to the right paths, to get out of danger because they do not overthink things. They trust their instincts.

Leadership skills can be taught but great instincts for leadership seem much more inherent to me.

Let us leave it to Obi Wan Kenobi (and we can with many leadership concepts … except that of telling the truth, but that is another subject for another blog!).

 

Teach & Serve III, No. 16 – Give Thanks for THAT?

Teach & Serve III, No. 16

Give Thanks for THAT?

November 22, 2017

An annual Thanksgiving post…

As we gather this week for Thanksgiving in the United States, our thoughts, hopefully, turn to those things for which we are grateful: family, friends, good health, good jobs… It is my sincere wish that you have many, many things in your life for which you are thankful and that they come to mind readily and easily.

thanksBriefly, I would like to challenge us to be thankful for some other things, things that do not readily come to mind, things that we might, more likely, rather disdain than praise.

I would like to challenge us to be thankful for:

The difficult parent conversation because many of these conversations lead us to reassessing how we work with parents. In my experience, not all but most of these conversations happen because the parents love their kids and want to help. Even the most difficult talks can (and often do) teach us something. Think back. Have you changed your approach, your policies, your demeanor because of a conversation like this? Give thanks.

The challenging student because I would rather have a student challenge me than simply sit there. I would rather have a student fired up about something than a room full of disaffected ones. I would rather have a student make me consider how I deal with challenging students in the first place. We work with kids, they are going to challenge us. More often than not, their challenges can be channeled (if we are skilled) into positive results. Give thanks.

The unreasonable colleague because most of the people with whom I work only seem unreasonable until I understand their reasons. When I work with a colleague whose opinions are outside my own, I have an opportunity to learn something about that colleague and, perhaps, something about myself. When I simply avoid people because I find them “unreasonable” I wonder how many people I end up having to avoid… Give thanks.

The inconvenient and inappropriate question because sometimes the out-of-left-field, how-could-you-possibly-have-asked-that-question is exactly the question that needs to be asked. As teachers and leaders, we are sometimes so goal oriented, we forget to slow down and ask outside-the-box questions. We avoid delaying to ask big questions. Someone should ask those and we should give space for them to be asked. Give thanks.

The times when time runs out because, as leaders, we often impose deadlines. When the deadlines imposed upon us run out and we are late, we sometimes think those deadlines we missed were unreasonable. How about the deadlines we, ourselves, impose? How reasonable are they? Give thanks.

The dismissal because every dismissal, of a student, staff member or teacher, grants us the opportunity to ask: “did I do everything I could to keep this person around? Did the school do all it could?” Those are terrific questions to ask. Give thanks.

The late-night cry because getting emotional about our work, getting upset, breaking down, reminds us that we care. Give thanks.

Give thanks for the work. Give thanks for the kids. Give thanks for your colleagues. Give thanks for the challenges.

Give thanks.

EduQuote of the Week: November 20 – 26, 2017

Education Week

The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown; you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote, the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.

– Donna Quesada

Office Door Quotes 2