Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Leadership is Teaching

This is a repost from my first article on Ken Royal's Educators Royal Treatment at Scholastic. Feedback and comments welcome! M.E.

Leadership is Teaching

I love my work.

Last week, Jeff Goldstein (@doctorjeff) posted this provocative tweet: “Shouldn't it be joyful employment? Shouldn't that be THE goal?” As I recall, he was talking about the goal of schooling.

But I was stunned by the juxtaposition of those two words: joyful employment.

And it got me to thinking about why on earth I love working as a district administrator. After all, change is messy. You can’t please everyone. Bureaucracy abounds. There are no summers off. Nonetheless.

I get to teach. Every single day.

I remember when I first read James McGregor Burns definitive work Leadership. “Leaders shape and alter and elevate the motives and values and goals of followers through the vital teaching role of leadership,” he claimed. I leaned forward in my chair. Yes! I thought. This is exactly what I love about my work.

A decade ago I had the opportunity to work with coaches from the Change Leadership Group (CLG) at Harvard. Our district was a beta site for the CLG’s early work in building capacity in school leadership teams to move from school re-formation to school trans-formation.

I was fascinated to watch our CLG leaders at work. Their leadership reminded me of how I thought good teaching looked. Whenever I practiced what I they preached, it always felt like doing my best teaching. Eventually, this led me to formal research—and lots of informal observations—of good teaching and good leading. Really, they’re much the same, aren’t they?

So as long as I get to teach (almost) every single day, that’s joyful employment.

Like good teachers, good leaders:
Build trust
Form community
Clarify expectations
Break tasks into manageable chunks
Promote dialogue
Ask provocative questions

Good teachers and leaders use processes that help others to consider, connect, and reshape their thinking. They’re change agents. Simply put, they help us change our minds.

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