Steve Farber, best selling author of The Radical Leap and The Radical Edge, says "real leaders take us places we've never been, turn nothing into something, and change the pieces of the world they touch for the better."
Extraordinary education is often accomplished only because of tremendous behind-the-scenes efforts of extraordinary school leadership. Sustainable change requires visionary and dedicated principals and district leaders. But what makes a leader extraordinary? What makes us want to follow them?
This summer has given me the privilege and opportunity to pose these questions to thousands of teachers, and this is how some have responded.
"I will follow, IF you lead with...":
- Unrelenting Dedication to Teacher Improvement: Successful leaders realize students have the best chance when taught by knowledgeable, effective, and empowered teachers.
- Investment in Teachers, Not Programs: Schools that work do not have more resources or money, they just invest it differently. They invest it in improving the quality and capacity of their teachers. Leaders in these schools provide teachers with the time and resources needed for planning, data analysis, collaboration, and the professional development necessary to sustain their efforts.
- Long Term Commitment to Excellence: Transformative education doesn't happen by simply sending teachers to a one-day workshop or providing them with 3-ring binders full of activities. Leaders that make a difference improve the quality of teaching and learning with long term planning. They understand there is no magic program or quick fixes. For them, improving excellence is a journey taken one careful and deliberate step at a time.
- Trust: Great leaders are guides to excellence. They understand teachers are the key agents of change and in turn give their teachers the respect, responsibility, and resources necessary to do what matters most. They encourage teachers to experiment with new approaches, without fear of failure, recognizing and trusting that teachers who know better--will do better.
- Involvement: Successful leaders not only understand the complexity and the urgency of the work, they are involved in the work. This involvement can take many forms: attending trainings; visiting classrooms; or participating in planning sessions. Regardless of the form, powerful leaders are aware AND there.
- Courage to Change: Leaders who are unwilling to change will find it hard to lead a change. You must be the model of adaptability,open-mindedness, and strength that you wish your teachers to be. Or in Gandhi's words,"Be the change you want to see."
What's missing? What qualities inspire your teachers to follow you?