Earning trust with sound, careful judgment, yet calling for change… How do we do that? Leadership means someone has to follow… Key to public leadership is earning the trust of the public and the many stakeholders involved in an organization as complex as public education. Effective school district leaders have mastered the art of earning a reputation for being “solid – deep rudder – slow to react – sound in judgment” as has been – and is - absolutely necessary. The success of our schools continues to rely on leaders who can earn trust and make change effectively. This important, positive characteristic of good leadership also creates quite a dilemma/conundrum. It is difficult for those who have established their authority by saying “Well this is no different than what I’ve seen for the past 35 years in this business” to now turn and say – “Indeed the tide has changed and we need to retool how we do business and reconstruct from the ground up.” That line just doesn’t fit with “well, it worked for my kids…” This is a real leadership dilemma that will not get sorted out neatly or without conflict. It is one that will require real, authentic leadership. The little shots on this slide with titles in maroon are screen shots of my blog. You can see I have put myself out there asking some tough questions publicly to the staff I work with, the school board, and anyone else who wants to torture themselves with reading what I have to say. But the question on this slide is what I believe lies at the heart of 21 st century leadership. Are we, the so called leaders, perceived by others to be a bunch of “chicken littles” or are we perceived to be leaders who have some real insight. We can be absolutely right and as brilliant Einstein – but if no one listens, it’s all for naught. If no one cares, nothing happens. Leadership right now requires speaking the truth about our current situation – and being believed. How do you tell the public that our education system is built upon a 19 th century model and be understood as a supporter of public education? How do you tell teachers that the “labor vs management” paradigm and the steps and lanes negotiated contracts are industrial era structures that are certain to bring down public education as it has brought down much of the auto industry, the newspaper industry, the airline industry, etc… WHILE earning their trust and leading them into this dynamic era of change? In essence – Real 21 st century leadership requires shouting that the “sky is falling” – but don’t panic because it’s going to result in something better. It might cost some of you to lose your jobs and will certainly require all of us to retool – but it’ll be better… trust me… I’m a leader… or am I Chicken Little? We must be perceived to be leaders. Not Chicken Littles.
How do we communicate something so abstract? After all, the American public can’t stand to debate about healthcare for 9 months and will switch political parties every 2 years if necessary to make a buck. Howard Gardner in Leading Minds speaks about leading the general public masses – he says one must be able to communicate with and persuade an audience with the education level of 5 year olds… Abstract to 5 year olds… Oh my. That’s a tough calling - but reality is the public bites on simple messages as demonstrated by so many of our politicians. We can’t balance the national budget because the public can’t swallow the complexity of truth and the sacrifices necessary to do it. So… 21 st century leadership requires real leaders able to sell truth through simple communications about complicated issues. We must continuously put the current realities and changes into the biggest picture possible. 21 st century leaders must be able to explain solid, research based, sound rationale for every single decision made. The gut isn’t good enough anymore. Experience doesn’t matters little today – except when trying to sell votes. Sound judgment based upon real information and absolute integrity, honesty, and transparency are key – along with selling the message. The 21 st century will tear apart leaders that can’t walk their talk as accountability is much more ruthless in this environment. So… how have I been exercising 21 st century leadership skills and how has it worked? Let’s get practical. First – I am no expert. I’m in year 10 in admin and year 4 as principal. I’ve been lucky to be in the right place at the right time and have had some successes that I feel good about. Of course, setbacks come with the deal – and I’ve had those. This next part is not an attempt to put jewels in my crown. My goal here is to get practical about 21 st century leadership and to share pieces of my story that might help you in your own schools.
Speak to importance of having a common language through which to talk about adult behaviors that do or don’t demonstrate good discipline: Disciplined People – Disciplined Thought – Disciplined Action If you don’t have a framework, then it’s just your opinion or your ego. By building this common understanding of what greatness is, then I, the leader, become the mirror instead of the king barking orders. I become the teacher. Plant seeds, distribute to leadership team and department chairs, teach PGOs, leadership team work sessions focused on leadership development… Can’t expect staff to be leaders if haven’t developed a framework and common language for talking about leadership (just like can’t expect kids to work in groups unless there are protocols and structure in place first). Year 1 – transition, Year 2 & 3 – build leadership capacity, Year 4 – launch PLCs, online blog and Ning site,
BLT work sessions Coffee chats All meetings now PD Buying books, subscriptions, and distributing articles Requiring article reads for meeting discussions Publicly calling for rigorous debate Huge focus on leadership training
This is more than student perception surveys. This is teachers lounge talk. Do teachers pick up the trash in the hallway or walk past it? Do staff pitch in and do things that are not their job – because it is right? You will never get students to do what is right if the staff isn’t modeling this first.
Seek counsel of elders Transparency Ask honest, tough questions Recognize that decisions made through consensus and votes are usually full of compromises and often are not the best. Shared learning builds community
Real debate about grading, what special education services are supposed to be, why we have some rules and procedures, and answers determined by what is right rather than who is the squeaky wheel. Online Social Network My blog Dashboard tool Coming soon – podcasted student interviews posted on social network to capture the narrative – and to instigate rigorous dialogue.
Teaching & leading adults is really the same as being a good teacher. This isn’t rocket science – KISS Authenticity is key
21 st century flow will have great political costs… but the price is worth the benefit. 3 “Deep Fundamentals” = time, space, knowledge
Toffler writes in The Third Wave: - Covert curriculum or Hidden Code of industrialization – or wave II = Standardization – think tests, pay scales, grading, benefits, IQ tests born, mass media Specialization – think Henry Ford creating 7,882 different jobs for the assembly line Synchronization – think move to beat of machine, punctuality, clocks, time = $ Concentration – think cities are formed, nursing homes, schools, prisons, asylums, birth of corporations Maximization – think infatuation with size & growth at the cost of ecological, environmental, and social disaster Centralization – think chain of command, law and order, Art. Of Confederation replaced by Constitution, centralized planning for corporations We are now possibly past wave III… Open source programming – think i-phone apps Level playing field to whole world – anyone with a connection can earn an audience Niche and persuasion is power – think moving the masses Transparency – think Iran protests on Twitter Building an alliance – or an audience – as the key 21 st century skill… How do we teach students to do that? Communication skills is absolutely fundamental.
Leadership in the 21 st Century The Chicken Little dance… Chris Lindholm [email_address]
Year 2 New building, new building leadership structure, advisory program Equipping new leaders with framework and language to lead – BLT work sessions Restructure SpEd Grading Disc. Launched Asking hard qstns. Year 3 Advisory expanded, fall & spring retreats More leadership training, dept. chair training Rigor & Relevance training Grading Disc. continued Started Sem. Final Exams Asking more hard qstns. Coffee Chats Faculty mtgs for PD Article reads Walsh Book for all staff -Select Transition Team -Re-launch focused on what is “right” -Own many decisions Dept Improvement Plans Article reads 2 nd Walsh Book for all staff This I Believe for all staff Year 4 Interdisci-plinary PLCs launched BLT given full PD responsibility Con’t leadership training Launched blog & staff Ning network Grading Disc. to individual imp. plans Article reads Discipline #s less than 1/2 Climate much improved Scores on way up “ New” Building R – R – R (Bill Dagget)