Watching the video above is a painful reminder of my lack of leadership at one point. During the early years as a high school principal I worked terribly hard to sustain practices that had been ingrained into the school learning culture. These practices looked good when viewed on the outside as they sustained the status quo, maintained control, and ensured the enforcement of rules/policies with the end result being an efficient educational system. The resulting culture focused squarely on the metrics that my stakeholders held dear. So in the end my leadership was defined by maintaining a building driven by standardized test scores and how well students were able to conform to the system that I was brainwashed into sustaining. Luckily for me I was diverted along a different path thanks to an epiphany provided by social media.
Image credit: http://d3bzjcbbiattc5.cloudfront.net/assets/status_quo-0a5967ba7c6bca80e05a4b9836d8fabf.jpg
Upon reflection many years later, I have realized that my efforts created a stagnant school culture that was not appreciated in the least bit by the most important stakeholder group I was responsible for – my students. If that was not bad enough, I also kept other stakeholders in the dark in regards to the innovative work that was taking place each and every day in my school as I relied on traditional methods of communication. The evolution of technology has and continues to invoke fear in the eyes and minds of many types of school leaders tasked with transforming school cultures. The fears, perceptions, and misconceptions that drive many leaders to maintain the status quo only work to perpetuate a growing disconnect that students experience with learning today. Conversely so other stakeholders remain in the dark in a time when leaders must be proactive with public relations to combat the negative rhetoric prevalent across the globe when it comes to education.
We can no longer afford to not only sustain an outdated system, but also rely on archaic practices that no longer have measurable impact. The good news here is that the principles of effective leadership form a solid foundation to move schools in the direction that they need to go. Digital leadership takes into account these effective principles that define great leadership along with the core work leaders do each and every day while leveraging available technology to do what is being done better. For greater context here are two recent posts I wrote for Scholastic:
- Why today’s school leaders must become digital leaders: Leadership is no different today than it was years ago. The only difference is that style and focus need to change with the times if we are to accomplish the lofty task of preparing students for a dynamic world that is more social and connected as a result of technology.
- The seven pillars of effective digital leadership: Specific areas embedded in the culture of all schools that can be improved or enhanced through the use of available technology, especially social media. They present a framework from which any educator or leader can begin to harness the power of technology to change professional practice and initiate sustainable change.
It is up to leaders in all positions to work smarter, not harder, if we are to create schools that provide an education that means something to our learners. For this to happen though, leaders need to get their heads out of the sand, acknowledge that the system and outdated practices no longer suffice, and take action to improve school culture. If not, yet another generation of students will be lost upon graduation.