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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why Leadership Matters...

A leader is a dealer in hope.
Wisdom is found sometimes in the unlikeliest of places. Napoleon may have been a dictator, and one who aspired to rule. A "dealer in hope" is part of what leadership can do. When put to good use, people are inspired to dream of possibilies.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.
Another important facet of leadership is guiding people fulfill that vision. Sometimes it takes connecting with what's in the hearts of other, other times its sweetness, or cold facts of the new reality. People will follow that which is clear and shown to be in their best interests.

In education, schools, even districts, build and follow school improvement plans whose intent is to provide students a successful learning experience. This is done, in part, giving teachers the tools to do that job, and for guiding administrators with a road map for leading the adults towards success. Such accomplishment takes a lot of work and sacrifices by the adults. There are no short cuts. No free rides. In most cases, effective school improvement plans require a shift in thinking by educators as to the ways business is done must change.

What gets monitored, gets done. What is not monitored does not get done.

As schools strive to become more skillful, better at meeting student needs, success is about building buy-in among staff. Not everyone will be on board. Yet a persistent leader can bring along staff by staying the course of action. There are veterans who with each initiative will murmur, "This too shall pass." While seeming cynical, those teachers and administrators speak from experience not fantasy. Resistance is a form of conserving ones energy for the real work. Change for its on sake does not by nature take root.

Strong leadership is needed to have effective school improvement plans. Leaders need to involve staff in the planning, include them in the shaping of a plan, and hold them accountable to their commitments. A leader who pays lip service will see the school improvement plan become a paperweight rather than a vehicle for improving success by teachers teaching students, and learners learning. Sadly, too many well intentioned leaders get trapped in the day to day demands. Like parents of kids going away to college where they are out of sight and no longer guided, a swamped leader "hopes" the staff is following the plan and doing what's expected. Just like the leader, the staff also struggle to keep their heads afloat. Priority is survival. The first things cast overboard are the tools and expectations of the school improvement plan.

'Good directors, playwrights and leaders are enablers who make it possible for others to succeed by providing the means and opportunities for actions.' Anon

Leadership is passionate persistence about what's best for learners needs and ensuring that all staff strive to meet those identified needs.