Thursday, 31 March 2011

Reflective Leadership - Part 1 of 2

How reflective are you as a leader?

Reflective leaders take time to think about the lessons learned, record their small wins and setbacks, document conflicts between values and practice, identify the difference between idiosyncratic behaviour and long-term pathologies, and notice trends that emerge over time.

From: The Learning Leader by Dougles Reeves
Published by: ASCD - the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

** Check in again tomorrow to find out how reflective leaders think.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Lead From the Front

In what circumstances might you 'lead from the front'?

There are times when leading from the front is necessary.  Here are some thoughts on it as well as a link to a great book if you want to pursue some learning about it.

What is Leading From the Front?  It is when a leader asserts an aspiration and invests his or her own political capital to support the aspiration. 

When would one lead from the front? 
  • ...when you, as the leader, need to create a sense of urgency in your organization
  • ...when you want to communicate that certain aspirations are important enough to be non-negotiable
  • ...when you fear that a consultative method would produce watered-down aspirations.....and results.
From: Deliverology 101 by Michael Barber
Published by: Corwin Press, EDI - U.S. Education Delivery Institute, OPC - Ontario Principals' Council

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Challenging Conversations

As a leader, how do you handle challenging conversations? 

Challenging conversations are most easily addressed in a school community characterized by respect, collaboration, and competence.

School leaders are often judged by staff, students, and community on how well they manage the challenging conversations that arise daily.  One's skill in meeting these challenges can make or break a reputation.  One's credibility and effectiveness are at stake. 

Dealing with challenging conversations enhances trust in a school community and forms the basis of a collaborative school culture.  It allows an organization to grow and prosper by providing a safe place to have the conversations that promote improvement. 

From:  The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations (Leading Student Achievement Series)
Published by: Corwin Press, OPC - The Ontario Principals' Council

Monday, 28 March 2011


Are you ambitious?  If so, are you ambitious for yourself or for your organization?

Jim Collins talks about Level 5 leadership, which, according to him, is the most successful level of leadership.  This is what he tells us about Level 5 leaders and ambition:

"Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great [organization].  It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest.  Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious - but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."

From:  Good to Great by Jim Collins
Published by: Harper Business

Friday, 25 March 2011

Characteristics of Principle-Centered Leaders

What guides your leadership?

In his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey identifies eight principles of effective leaders....

"I have isolated eight discernible characteristics of people who are principle-centered leaders.  These traits not only characterize effective leaders, they also serve as signs of progress for all of us."

The eight principles of effective leaders...

  1. they are continually learning
  2. they are service-oriented
  3. they radiate positive energy
  4. they believe in other people
  5. they lead balanced lives
  6. they see life as an adventure
  7. they are synergistic
  8. they exercise for self-renewal
From:  Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey
(Published by: Simon & Schuster)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Celebrate, Recognize, Reinforce, Reward

As a leader, do you Celebrate, Recognize, Reinforce, and Reward your staff?

The kind of significant, sustained improvement that we need in [organizations] will not occur in an isolated, free-lance culture, where no one knows what anyone else is doing or what each other's operative goals are.  That is a system in disarray.

[Organizations] improve when purpose and effort unite.  One key is leadership that recognizes its most vital function: to keep everyone's eyes on the prize of [improvement].  The crush of competing agendas and distractions does not make that focus easy.

One of the most effective means to cultivate a goal-oriented culture is to regularly reinforce and recognize improvement efforts, both privately and publicly. 

From: Results by Mike Schmoker
(Published by: ASCD - The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Four Hats of Shared Leadership

As a leader, which of the four hats do you wear and is there balance among the hats you wear?

In an adaptive organization, leadership is shared - all the players wear all the hats.  All the players must have the knowledge and skill to manage themselves, manage [those they supervise] or lead adults.  Leadership is a shared function.  ...  Recognizing the hats and knowing when and how to use them is vital for you as a leader. 

The Four Hats

Facilitating - To facilitate means 'make easier'.  A facilitator is one who conducts a meeting in which the purpose is dialogue, shared decision making, planning, or problem solving.  The facilitator directs the processes to be used.

Presenting - To present is to teach.  A presenter's goals are to extend and enrich knowledge, skills, or attitudes and to have these applied in people's work.  A presenter may adopt many stances - expert, colleague, novice, or friend.

Coaching - To coach is to help someone take action toward their own goals while simultaneously developing their own expertise in planning, reflecting, problem solving, and decision making.  The coach takes a nonjudgmental stance and uses tools of open-ended questions, wait time, paraphrasing, and probing for specificity.

Consulting - A consultant can be an information specialist or an advocate for content of process.  As an information specialist, the consultant delivers technical knowledge to another person or group.  As a content advocate, the consultant encourages the others to use a certain predetermined strategy.  To effectively consult, one must have trust, commonly defined goals and the desired outcomes clearly in mind.

From: The Adaptive School by Robert Garmston and Bruce Wellman

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Will your people follow your lead?

As a leader, how do you build and strengthen relationships right from the beginning of a working relationship? 

The cover of a recent U.S. business magazine posed the question; "Will your people follow your lead?" While this is a good question for leaders to consider. ... Rather than focusing on our role and content, and trusting that our participants will adjust to us, it is increasingly important that we establish an environment of inclusion and influence.... As people interact around a shrinking globe, both in person and electronically, the ability to build and strengthen relationships right from the beginning is absolutely critical to the success of projects and organizations. [Leaders]who lack the ability to nurture relationships or who are pressured to deliver immediate results without taking the time to establish a foundation of rapport, tend to be less productive in the long run. So how does one build relationships, strengthen positive influence, and establish an environment of inclusion when working with audiences around the globe?

By: Kevin Sensenig
Published in journal: Training & Development - February 2011, Vol. 65 Issue 2

Monday, 21 March 2011

Don't Push Out the Troublemakers

When you are leading, do you try to get rid of 'the troublemakers'?  If so, that may be a mistake. 

"Don’t push out the troublemakers; let them in and treat them with respect. As he (John Kotter)
puts it, “invite in the lions.” Embrace them and welcome them into the debate. Using
this strategy disarms and co-opts them, and also creates some drama and focuses other
people’s attention on your proposal, which can be helpful when everyone is
on information overload."

From: Jeff Kehoe, "How to Save Good Ideas: An Interview with John Kotter". 
Published by: Harvard Business Review 88, no. 10 (October 2010): 129-132.  Found in: Phi Delta Kappan, December 2010

Friday, 18 March 2011

People, not Programs

As a leader, do you draw on the talent and wisdom of your staff or do you hope external programs can serve as the 'silver bullet' for improvement?

People, not programs, are at the apex of serious [organization] improvement and they are the nexus of authentic PLCs.  It is not about brand name programs - whether they are implemented "with fidelity" - that matter most.  It's about using to the fullest extent the talent and wisdom of a collective, an existing [staff] that can, with intense and sustained focus on a few important things, bring about the most significant change and improvements in [the organization].

From: The Practice of Authentic PLCs by Daniel R. Venables
(Published by: Corwin)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Culture of your Organization

Do you know the culture of your organization?  If yes, is it the culture that you need to be successful?  If no, do what to do to shift the culture?

"One of the toughest  aspects of improving [organizations] is managing through the issues of climate and culture.  We often focus on creating systems and structures, overlook the underlying culture, and are then surprised when things fall apart."

"All organizations operate within a given culture.  This became startlingly clear the first time I visited an Apple Store for technical support.  I felt rather dowdy when I looked around and pretty much everyone in the store (employees and customers) looked as though they they belonged in either an alternative rock band or posing in a fashion magazine.  Techno music pumped through the store and there was a youthful cutting-edge vibe.  Do you suppose the Apple culture is an accident?  Not a chance.  It has been carefully designed and cultivated and has been pivotal to the company's success."

From: Student-centered Coaching by Diane Sweeney
(Published by: Corwin)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Are you listening?

In conversation with those you lead, do you just listen or do you listen for meaning?

Consider these thoughts from the book cited below:

  • Listening well is at the core of effectively addressing challenging conversations.
  • Active listening comprises six discrete skills: encouraging, clarifying, restating, reflecting, summarizing, and validating.
  • Real interests and needs are often communicated nonverbally.  We ignore nonverbal signals at our peril.
  • Skilled listeners use reframing skills to provide new insights and to focus on the more positive aspects of a situation.
From:  The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations
(Published by: Corwin & the Ontario Principals' Council)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Leading In A Culture of Change

As a leader, how do you manage change for those whom you lead?

"Change is a double-edged sword.  Its relentless pace these days runs us off our feet.  Yet when things are unsettled, we can find new ways to move ahead and to create breakthroughs not possible in stagnant societies.  If you ask people to brainstorm words to describe change, they come up with a mixture of negative and positive terms.  On the one side, fear, anxiety, loss, danger, panic; on the other, exhilaration, risk-taking, excitement, improvements, energizing.  For better or worse, change arouses emotions, and when emotions intensify, leadership is key. 

From:  Leading In A Culture of Change by Michael Fullan
(Published by: Jossey-Bass)

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Leader as Servant

How do you serve those whom you lead?

"..the leader is the 'servant' of his (or her) followers in that he (or she) removes the obstacles that prevent them from doing their jobs.  In short, the true leader enables his or her followers to realize their full potential."

From: Leadership is an Art by Max DePree
(Published by: Dell)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Leaders Foster Renewal

How do you foster renewal in yourself and those you lead?

Leaders Foster Renewal

Leaders must find respite in the whirlwind.  They need to develop habits that restore energy and vitality amidst the buffeting forces of busyness and intensity that mark the ambiguous, result-driven, and highly pressurized contexts of their work.

From: Leading from Within by Intrator &Scribner
 (Published by Jossey-Bass)

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Doing the right work

Are you leading people to do the 'right work'?

"...the downfall of low-performing [organizations] is not their lack of effort and motivation; rather, it is poor decisions regarding what to work on.  So the problem in low-performing [organizations] is not getting people to work, it is getting people to do the 'right work'."

from: School Leadership that Works by Marzano, Waters, & McNulty
(ASCD - Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and McREL - Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

In times of challenge

When you are challenged as a leader, what resources do you draw on?

"In the midst of tough times, just believing in yourself isn't necessarily enough to get you through adversity in a healthy way.  You need another building block to lean heavily on: 'I have the resources available to support me.'

"Reaching out for support is not a sign of a personal weakness that you can't take care of things by yourself. Believing that you have the resources to draw upon is a sign of strength."

    From: Resilient School Leaders by Patterson & Kelleher
    (ASCD - Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

We learn the work by doing the work....

As a leader, are you doing the work or telling others to do the work?

"We learn the work by doing the work, not by telling other people to do the work, not by having done the work at some time in the past, and not by hiring experts who can act as proxies for our knowledge about how to do the work."

                              from: Instructional Rounds by City, Elmore, Fiarman, & Teitel
                                                                             (Harvard Education Press)

Monday, 7 March 2011

Jim Collins - an old favourite

In what way does your leadership reflect modesty or humility?

"...good-to-great leaders didn't talk about themselves." 

"It wasn't just false modesty.  Those who worked with or or wrote about the good-to-great leaders continually used words like quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings: and so forth. 
                                                   from: Good to Great by Jim Collins
                                                       (published by Harper Business)