Monday, 7 November 2011

Comfort the Distressed and Distress the Comfortable

As a leader, how do you bring about change in the best interest of your school/organization by both 'comforting' and 'distressing' your staff?

Last year, an educator I greatly respect used the phrase, "Comfort the distressed and distress the comfortable."  I liked it very much at the time and as I've reflected on it, I have come to realize how very important it is for leaders to do this very thing.  We need to distress the comfortable.  If we don't we're likely supporting the status quo and there aren't many places where the status quo is truly accomplishing what we need to accomplish. 

Equally, as leaders, we need to comfort the distressed.  One of our key roles is to support and nurture learning and growth - not only for ourselves - for those we lead.  Learning happens when we are out of our comfort zones and that can be a distressing place for people to be.  However, if we never go there, we really can't learn and become more effective in our practice.  As a leader, you need to take people out of their comfort zone and simultaneously comforting them as they move away from what is familiar.  

How do you balance comforting and distressing?  That's part of the art of leadership.  If that idea could be captured in a blog post, it probably wouldn't be a skill much worth cultivating.  Leading is artistry when it is done well because we can 'distress' people and 'comfort' them at the same time.....and it all works out well.  In fact, when done well, people seek out this apparently paradoxical state because they see how it helps them learn and grow....and people like to grow professionally. 

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