Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 11 – Spock Knows His Ship

Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 11

Spock Know His Ship

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


Today would have been my father’s birthday. He was not a huge science fiction fan, but, much like the Spock I write about below, Dad knew his systems and how to fix them!

People can (and do!) argue about which of the 12 Star Trek movies is the best.

For my credits (there’s no money in Star Trek), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan leads the list. It has everything a movie could want: engaging action, compelling themes, wonderful humor, desperate circumstances, traumatic deaths, promises of resurrection. The Wrath of Khan is a great movie.

Beyond those things, it does something amazing for a character audiences have known for over 50 years: it makes him all the more impressive and inspiring.

Here is the deal: as the villain Khan stands on the precipice of his final revenge on Admiral (“Admiral?!? Admiral? Admiral.”) Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, Captain Spock springs into action, repairs the ship and sacrifices himself in the process.

What I note about this scene (and about the re-visioned version in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness which places Kirk in Spock situation of Wrath of Khan) is that Spock (and Kirk) know the Enterprise inside-and-out. They know which systems are broken and how to fix them. They can feel the ship dropping out of warp. They understand when something is wrong with her.

These are leadership qualities those of us who identify as leaders should aspire to have: that we know our systems so well we can attend to those that are misfiring or not in alignment or not working well, that we understand our surroundings to such an extent that we are not intimidated by issues or problems, that we can confidently look at the totality of our work and say, “yes, I can handle that.”

Spock’s sacrifice is, perhaps, the most powerful Star Trek scene ever filmed.

It is also a powerful example of what it takes to lead.

Teach & Serve III, No. 23 – I Hear You

Teach & Serve III, No. 23 – I Hear You

January 17, 2018

Anyone with a well-developed auditory sense can listen. Leaders who want to serve the people with whom they work must hear.

In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to discuss myself and my leadership in detailed and reflective ways, asked questions by groups of dedicated educators who were most interested in my answers. I was both lucky and blessed to have been part of three separate search processes – processes looking to identify qualities in applicants for instructional leaders of schools. The conversations were long, intense, exciting and exhilarating one-and-all.

As I moved from conversation-to-conversation, process-to-process, I found myself listening to myself and reflecting on what I was saying in medias res which was a very interesting experience. After all, there are questions that good interview committees will be sure to ask and questions for which I very much needed to be prepared, prepared to give my most honest and authentic responses.

Inevitably, the question of how I would, as the instructional leader, listen to the staffs and the teachers and the students of each respective institution – was raised.

I replied that listening is a critical component of educational leadership, but not the most critical one. And, in fact, I found myself saying, on more than one occasion and working quickly to explain myself, how important it is that people feel as though they are heard.

Hang on, now… “feeling” as though one is heard does not actually indicate that someone has been heard.

Good leaders listen, sure. Good educational leaders are good at listening.

Exceptional educational leaders are exceptionally good at hearing.

Anyone with a well-developed auditory sense can listen. Leaders who want to serve the people with whom they work must hear. The must work at it and hone the skill. They must realize that hearing is so much more important than simply listening.

Hearing implies a desire to connect. Hearing implies wanting to comprehend. Hearing implies action.

Listening is passive. Someone who is listening is just there, in the room or the office, nodding, smiling, listening.

Hearing is active. Someone who is hearing is engaged, asking questions, offering support, giving suggestions.

Leaders who valuing hearing put away all distractions, close their laptops and shut down their tablets. They silence and set aside their phones and they hear.

When a true leader says “I hear you” the person to whom they say it does not just feel heard, she or he knows without a doubt she or he has been heard.

A leader does not just listen, a leader hears.

(oh, and a follow up on those conversations about formal educational leadership is coming…)

EduQuote of the Week: January 15 – 21, 2018

MLK Day 2018

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Dr. Martin Luther King, jr

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve III, No. 22 – Get Real

Teach & Serve III, No. 22 – Get Real

January 10, 2018

Our students want us to be real. They want us to connect with them in real ways. They want to understand what application any and everything we are teaching them has on their real lives. Our staffs want us to be real. They want us to know them in real ways. They want to understand what implication our leadership has on their real lives.

 

You know what our students and staffs want from us as educational leaders?

They want us to get real.

I am an awards season addict. Okay, in fairness, “addict” may be too strong a word. Let us stipulate to the fact that I pay attention to Hollywood awards beginning with the Golden Globes running right on through the Oscars. Yes, they are self-congratulatory. Yes, there is much to criticize about entertainment and Hollywood culture. Yes, there is typically something vacuous about all this.

Yes, yes, yes.

But, at last Sunday’s Golden Globes, there was something else. There was a reality to the proceedings, a self-awareness. There was a seriousness about sexual harassment, about women’s roles in the industry, about what inspires good work and why people do it.

There was something real about what was said.

And that was before Oprah Winfrey spoke.

What she said, though inspiring, powerful and worth a listen I think, is not what got me thinking about Teach & Serve this week. The fact that Oprah took advantage of her opportunity to be real, to address real issues, to talk about reality is what most moved me. Her conclusions can be debated as can her reasons for sharing these particular comments at this particular time. But the fact that she was real cannot be.

Our students want us to be real. They want us to connect with them in real ways. They want to understand what application any and everything we are teaching them has on their real lives.

They want us to get real.

Our staffs want us to be real. They want us to know them in real ways. They want to understand what implication our leadership has on their real lives.

They want us to get real.

That is a standard to which excellent educational leadership hold themselves: they are real. They know what they say and what they do affects people and they are clear and careful and conscious of that. They understand that their leadership has real-world consequences and they do not take the responsibility lightly.

Be a better educational leader in 2018.

Get real.

EduQuote of the Week: January 8 – 14, 2018

Pizza Appreciation Week

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

Yogi Berra

Office Door Quotes 2

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: 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

Office Door Quotes 2

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.