Why do many school reform efforts fail to take hold despite ample talent, effort, and resources? Even when the need for systemic improvement or innovation is clear, deep and lasting organizational change often remains elusive. Perhaps this is because many tend to have a narrow perspective regarding what is required to transform potential innovation into successful and sustainable reality.
Across many of our school systems there is much talk about standards-based report cards, but very little understanding about the value of standards-based report cards and how they can be effectively developed and implemented in schools. Developing Standards-Based Report Cards, by Thomas Guskey and Jane Bailey, emphasizes the alignment of curriculum (standards), instruction and assessment (report cards) in a way that is constructive and meaningful to the everyday school lives of students.
One person does not effectively lead a complex organization in a changing world. Rather, leadership is distributed across an organization in a range of ways. In Distributed Leadership in Practice, editors James Spillane and John Diamond examine and clarify the distributed leadership perspective by presenting selected case study articles that demonstrate how leadership is effectively stretched across schools through established routines, systems of practice, tools and individuals in a variety of roles.
As an educational leader, how well prepared are you to engage in uncomfortable conversations in ways that are constructive, respectful and take into account the perspectives of others? School leaders are often put in the position of discussing issues or concerns that are hard to talk about, but rarely are they given strategies that they can actually use to navigate such conversations adeptly.
All of us have our own personality styles and mental lenses that we gravitate to. Although it may not come naturally, effective leaders must nurture within themselves the ability to examine situations and challenges from a range of perspectives – especially from the perspectives that don’t ‘come naturally’ to them. Free your mind and increase your problem solving ability (and thus your ability to lead) by reading Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership by Lee Bolman and Terrance Deal.
Don’t ever underestimate the importance of the role of education in our world! That is one of the big things I ‘took away’ from this text. While knowledge gives power, the methods by which school systems educate sometimes squelch the very creativity and divergent thinking that schools profess to encourage.
As an educational leader ethics are intertwined with all that you do, so why not take some time to reflect on ethics as related to your professional responsibilities? Busy school administrators should take time to read Ethical Leadership, by Robert Starratt, every few years as a way to ground and refocus their thoughts and feelings regarding ethics.
Effective leadership is leadership for change. While individual change is challenging at the least, organizational change is much more complex and difficult to achieve. One of my favorite quotes, by Machiavelli: “ There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”. Don’t take the challenge or organizational learning and leading for granted. Read this esteemed book by Peter Senge to expand your thinking on the matter.