Being on the search committee for a new school leader has made my bookmarks and bookshelves grow with various leadership books and writings - yet two of them seem to get the most feedback.
The second most-discussed premise about leaderships came from the work of Jim Collins, author of classic #1 bestselling book, Good To Great, where he coined the terms "Level 5 Leaders" and "The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity of Three Circles)" which is about "transcending the curse of competence." One quote in particular as it relates to school, business and school leaders, which addresses a very heated national debate:1) Your School Must Be For All Kids 100 Percent of the
If you start making decisions based on avoiding conflict, the
students lose. . .
2) Create a Vision, Write It Down, and Start Implementing It
Don't put your vision in your drawer and hope for the best.
Every decision must be aligned with that vision. The whole
organization is watching when you make a decision, so
consistency is crucial.
3) It's the People, Stupid
. . . Hire people who support your vision, who are bright, and
who like kids.
4) Paddles in the Water
. . . At King, in times of crisis, everyone responds with paddles
in the water.
5) Find Time to Think During the DayThey pay me to worry. . . . . . . .So, me, I am never going to
have a good day --- just get over it.
6) Take Responsibility for the Good and the Bad
If the problems in your school or organization lie below you and the solutions lie above you, then you have rendered yourself irrelevant. The genius of school lies within the school. The solutions to problems are almost always right in front of you.
7) You Have the Ultimate ResponsibilityHave very clear expectations. . . . Autonomy is the goal, though you still have to inspect.
8) Have a Bias for Yes. . . The only progress you will ever make involves risk: Ideas that teachers have may seem a little unsafe and crazy. Try to think, "How can I make this request into a yes?"
9) Consensus is OverratedTwenty percent of people will be against anything. When you realize this, you avoid compromising what really should be done because you stop watering things down. If you always try to reach consensus, you are being led by the 20 percent.
10) Large Change Needs to be Done QuicklyIf you wait too long to make changes to a school culture, you have already sanctioned mediocre behavior because you're allowing it. That's when change is hard, and you begin making bad deals.
What would YOU add to the list?
"We must reject the idea--well-intentioned, but dead wrong--that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become "more like a business." Most businesses--like most of anything else in life--fall somewhere between mediocre and good. Few are great. When you compare great companies with good ones, many widely practiced business norms turn out to correlate with mediocrity, not greatness. So, then, why would we want to import the practices of mediocrity into the social sectors?
I shared this perspective with a gathering of business CEOs, and offended nearly everyone in the room. A hand shot up from David Weekley, one of the more thoughtful CEOs--a man who built a very successful company and who now spends nearly half his time working with the social sectors. "Do you have evidence to support your point?" he demanded. "In my work with nonprofits, I find that they're in desperate need of greater discipline--disciplined planning, disciplined people, disciplined governance, disciplined allocation of resources."
"What makes you think that's a business concept?" I replied. "Most businesses also have a desperate need for greater discipline. Mediocre companies rarely display the relentless culture of discipline--disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action--that we find in truly great companies. A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness."
Later, at dinner, we continued our debate, and I asked Weekley: "If you had taken a different path in life and become, say, a church leader, a university president, a nonprofit leader, a hospital CEO, or a school superintendent, would you have been any less disciplined in your approach? Would you have been less likely to practice enlightened leadership, or put less energy into getting the right people on the bus, or been less demanding of results?" Weekley considered the question for a long moment. "No, I suspect not."
That's when it dawned on me: we need a new language. The critical distinction is not between business and social, but between great and good. We need to reject the naive imposition of the "language of business" on the social sectors, and instead jointly embrace a language of greatness."
Previously published The Daily Riff August 2010