Half the Leadership Picture

Fitzgerald.001Recently I stumbled on a blog that told only half the truth about school leadership. I’m not going to link to it—it wasn’t a bad blog, but when we over-focus on some aspects of leadership we ignore equally important responsibilities that end up undermining what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. Let me show you what I mean.

  • Of course leaders need to be visionary, but not at the expense of reality checks. There are limits to time, dollars, the cognitive load involved in juggling various initiatives, and to energy available for different efforts.
  • Of course leaders need to be flexible, but not at the expense of planning. In fact, great leaders build checkpoints into plans to ensure they are remembering to evaluate whether the plan needs to change!
  • Of course leaders need to communicate, but they also need to listen. The latter is so uncommon in school leaders that a principal who is also Native American told me his new staff didn’t believe him when he said at the start of his first year, “My goal is to listen and learn from you this year—what is working, what the students need, what you need. Then we’ll plan our strategies together.” His staff accused him of hidden agendas, sure he had his big initiatives waiting in the wings like every other principal they’d worked for.
  • Of course leaders need to use their strengths, but they also need to manage related weaknesses so they don’t undermine their own good works.
  • Of course leaders need to give clear-cut directives and make decisions, yet allowing room for individual pathways to the same goals and for creativity is essential for innovation.
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The Myth of the Leadership Silver Bullet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier this week in just 60 seconds of perusing my news digest app, I counted over a half dozen articles promising quick, essential cures for leadership woes. “The Six Traits…” “Five Things Every Leader…” “Seven Secrets of…” You know the blogs. The headlines capture reader attention and the content generally provides some truth. But not the whole truth, for at least four reasons:

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