Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Will and Courage to Lead

Over the past couple of weeks I have been either keynoting conferences or facilitating workshops focusing on digital leadership and learning.  I relish the fact of being able to talk about creating schools that work for kids and leadership in the digital age.  The main goal is to inspire current and future leaders to reflect on professional practice in order to become more effective and efficient. The primary target audience has been building and district level administrators with the hope of providing them with the ideas and strategies to improve their leadership. After all, if these leaders don’t get it the chances of innovative change being initiated and sustained is greatly reduced. 

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Here in lies the issue though. The primary audience at each event has been teachers, which by no means is a bad thing. However, the teachers in attendance have been quite open with me in voicing their frustration that their building and district leaders have not been in attendance.  This is equally frustrating for me as I was once the leader who had his head in the sand as a result of a fixed mindset. As a result, my school focused on the same nearsighted goals that were more about what was good for the adults and the system as opposed to our students. Many educators see the value in change, but a wake up call is needed for the individuals in power that do not see the value or have the time to improve professional practice.

I have written quite extensively over the past couple of months about how leadership is more about action than position.  However, the purpose of this post is to stir the pot and target those leaders who have chosen to pursue administrative positions in schools across the world. Many of these leaders talk about how they will, or want to, always do what’s best for kids, but their actions (or lack thereof) speak otherwise.  These individuals wield a great deal of power just by the mere fact of having a title. With this power comes a greater responsibility to act accordingly to not only challenge the status quo, but also in many cases make bold decisions to transform traditional school cultures.  

Times are changing and the mantra that this too shall pass has to be challenged. The will to lead means those who have accepted greater responsibility have the courage to constantly move schools forward.  In a world where technology continues to advance at rapid rates this means developing an understanding of how it can support and enhance the work already being done. It also means understanding and accepting that you will not have all the answers, nor do you need to. This requires a mindset to learn how to unlearn and relearn to be in a better position to make meaningful decisions that will lead to sustainable change. 

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It is time to reflect.  Leaders should begin by asking themselves these questions:

  • How can technology help me do what I do better?
  • Does this policy, procedure, or rule impact student learning?
  • How well does our school/district prepare students for life and jobs that don't exist yet?
  • Am I more of a manager or an instructional leader?
  • Is the investment in technology having an impact on student learning?
  • Can I do a better job engaging and building better relationships with all stakeholders? If technology can help with this why am I not embracing it?
  • Do I model the expectations I have set for others?
  • Does the physical school environment reflect the real world?
  • Do educators in our school/district feel comfortable to take risks without the fear of failure?
  • Will I make the commitment to learn alongside my staff? 

Let the questions above serve as a gut check.  Districts need real leaders. Schools need real leaders. Most of all, students need and deserve real leaders. We can no longer afford to have people in power run schools to the ground, protect the status quo, and sustain outdated practices that negatively impact our most precious resource – students.  It is an honor and privilege to be in a leadership position. With this must come the will and courage to lead accordingly.  Accept this challenge or move on to another position and/or profession so that students and staff can experience their full potential. 

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  1. Well done! I accept the challenge and plan to share this post with my team. We are in the first year of a two-year 1-1 chromebook initiative with half of our students having chromebooks this year. Your questions will help me and my team check our progress so far. This post is definitely a "gut check". Thank You!

  2. Would you mind sharing an agenda/schedule for the new role of admin on a regular school day?

    1. Not totally sure what you mean by this? Can you please elaborate so I am in a better position to get you what you need?