Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 10 – Where No Man Will Go

Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 10

Where No Man Will Go

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


There were many cultural touchpoints to which to pay attention in 2017. In pop culture, one would be hard pressed to argue that the appearance of Wonder Woman and her rocketing to mass awareness was not one of them.

In what was, perhaps, the most talked about scene in her eponymous film, Wonder Woman is ensconced in a trench at the edge of No Man’s Land during a World War One battle. She is torn. She is pained. She is trying to understand the reasons why none of the soldiers with whom she is traveling are willing to take the field and protect the city on the other side of the battlefield separating the warring factions.

She is a princess of peace. She is a warrior of hope. She is distraught by what she sees.

And she acts.

She crosses the wasteland. She protects the people. She overcomes the odds.

Do we not yearn for leaders who recognize when impossible odds must be confronted? Do we not want leaders who are willing to risk everything for a greater cause? Do we not need leaders to lead us where our better selves might be too frightened to travel?

In this scene, Wonder Woman becomes a hero for all ages, all genders, all people. She becomes a symbol of hope, a beacon of truth and a lesson to learn.

Yes, this is fiction. Yes, in this context, she has powers to protect her. Yes, this is fantasy.

But we can lead into the teeth of danger – whatever the danger may be. We can confront impossible odds. We can do what is right.

And we must.

Teach & Serve III, No. 20 – TRANSPARENCY #oneword2018

Teach & Serve III, No. 21 – TRANSPARENCY #oneword2018

January 3, 2018

Leaders who operate from a perspective of transparency take the guesswork out of followership and take the guess work out of who they are… It is easy to know who a transparent leader is. She is not hiding anything.

I love the concept of choosing one word on which to focus for the next twelve months. I am not entirely sure who began the initiative or how the concept got moving. But I am glad that those educators I follow on Twitter have been celebrating it. Their enthusiasm has inspired my own over the last few years and I thought carefully about what I would choose as my guiding word and principle this year.

My One Word for 2018 is TRANSPARENCY.

Talented leaders are brimming with qualities that make them inspirational and effective. They share those qualities freely and without expectation. They serve those with whom they work as part of the vocation of educational leadership they have chosen. And they have many qualities in common.

Of these, the quality I most wish to adopt, expand and emulate in my own life is transparency.

Leaders who are transparent (people who are transparent) in who they are, in what they do and in how they lead do not leave people guessing. They do not make decisions that seem out of the blue, left field or nowhere. They do not catch those around them flatfooted. Leaders who are transparent communicate with those around them consistently and as a matter of course. They are not hiding agendas because they have no agendas to hide. They are up front, genuine and authentic.

Leadership is challenging but so is followership. Followership can be made easier by leaders who are transparent. When followers know what to expect and what is expected of them, when they know what drives leaders’ decision making, when they know what leaders are thinking and why they are thinking it, being a follower is both easier and more fulfilling. Leaders who operate from a perspective of transparency take the guesswork out of followership and take the guess work out of who they are.

It is easy to know who a transparent leader is. She is not hiding anything.

We could use more transparency in our world. We can certainly use transparency in our work.

As I grow in 2018, as I continue to improve myself as a person and as a leader, I will work to be transparent. I will work to be authentic. I will work to be genuine.

I will work on my #oneword2018.

EduQuote of the Week: January 1 – 7, 2018

Resolution Week

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

Neil Gaiman

Office Door Quotes 2

EduQuote of the Week: December 25 – 31, 2017

Christmas

Fall on your knees. O hear the angels’ voices.

O Holy Night

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve III, No. 20 – The Gift of Our Work

Teach & Serve III, No. 20 – The Gift of Our Work

December 20, 2017

The next Teach & Serve will be published on Wednesday, January 3, 2018.

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

We do not get tired of good Christmas songsWe look forward to their repetition each year. When beginning to compose a post for the week of Christmas this year, I realized I had covered the themes I wanted to in last year’s Christmas post, so I will present it again here and plan to do so annually. I hope you enjoy it.

On many desks and in many inboxes this time of year, teachers and administrators find all manner of remembrances – cards and notes and gifts, tokens of affection and appreciation. Typically, these trinkets and notes do not fully express the gratitude of the students we serve. They are lovely to receive. They are not always reflective of the appreciation our communities feel for us.

But, while It is an appropriate time of year for students to thank us, it is an equally appropriate time of year for us to be thankful.

As many of us finish our last minute tasks, our baking and decorating and preparing, this is a great time of year to think about another great gift we in education are given: the gift of doing work that influences the future.

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

We most often do not see ready results. While some of us have been in this work for an extended period of time and we have been able to watch some of the seeds we have planted grow in the lives our students lead after they have left us, we are typically immersed in the day-to-day, the checklist of the moment, the class to come, the next paper to grade.

It is challenging, then, to remember that our reach exceeds our grasp, ever and always. The work we do influences the world to come. It shapes society. It changes the world.

Changes. The. World.

That’s a gift worth receiving. It’s a gift worth sharing.

EduQuote of the Week: December 18 – 24, 2017

Posadas

En el nombre del cielo os pido posada, pues no puede andar mi esposa amada.

– Traditional Los Posadas Lyrics

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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

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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.

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.