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I have a perfect example that makes your point. We all do a summer mailing to welcome our staff, parents, and students to a new school year. I was talking to a fellow administrator who shared her summer letter with me. It was a 2 page document that outlined a lot of repetitive "nuts and bolts" information that everyone knew. It outlined the school improvement plan among a number of other educational data. I, on the other hand, have always written a more personal letter that welcomes new staff and briefly outlines cultural events, which are more family or student oriented. It is a one page document that focuses on motivating students and teachers. Her's was very professional but not personal. There was no connection. In the ended we borrowed ideas from each other. This post really hits home during these summer months when we are trying to recharge ourselves and start the new year off on the right foot.. Thank you.

Justin B.

Nice post.

Yeah, it is a not so secret, secret, isn't it? I like the educational leader language more than the educational administrator language, but I do frequently wonder which is the more accurately descriptive.

Perhaps it is a not an accident that the two major educational leadership preparation professional organizations (NCPEA & UCEA) still stick with the "administration" label.

Kevin W. Riley

I can always tell when I am "leading"... because it usually means I am about to get fired for bringing my school to the edge of another profound discovery. About ourselves. About our kids. I could have just followed everyone else. I could have done what the Board or the common wisdom or the Governor or some researcher told us to do. Could have played it safe.

But at charter schools we are expected to innovate and lead the entire community right through the weeds if we have to. I just want to get results--by any means necessary-- and keep kids and teachers whole in the bargain. I know with 100% certainty what DOESN'T work for kids at schools like mine-- and that is maintaining schools that weren't designed for students like mine.

... so if I am not leading and pushing and agitating and darn near getting fired for taking risks that others might be too afraid (or too judicious) to take-- then I am not stretching enough to make a difference anyway.

There is no "follow". Lead or get out of the way! Everything else is "management".


If only the administrator that just left our school had learned this several years ago.


I really like Kevin's, "...because it usually means I am about to get fired for bringing my school to the edge of another profound discovery..." approach to leading. Leading isn't comfort, it's edgy at best.

Oftentimes I know I manage instead of lead, but I will say that at times that is appropriate. Visionary leaders without a mechanism to connect with the current situation tend to get fired not because they don't inspire but because they don't get the daily job done. There is a balance to be met, but most of us lean away from leadership as management is more of an immediate response thing. For example, when a student has just thrown a desk across the room, is it more imperative to address that or continue to discuss technology implementation? The "fire" always gets my attention over the "construction" in these situations. Much like the long-used, "it's tough to concentrate on draining the swamp when you are surrounded by alligators."

On the other hand, the letter that dcowart discusses gives an opportunity to shift focus. You can lead in this opportunity-there is no fire, so take advantage of that.


I have seen the same thing myself many, many times, in newsletters, at Superintendent's Conference days, retreats...you name it.

I'm glad you were able to find a way to "connect" with your colleague.



No matter what label you put on it, administrator or leader; it's about the person's actions. It's easy to discern one from the other by observing what they do, and how they do it.



Wow! I applaud you for your courage.

I don't believe that leaders 'need' to be on the verge of being fired in order to feel they are leading; but I have seen that scenario and been in the same situation myself.

Reflecting on my own life, I have found that, generally, I was not good at getting the stakeholders above me to buy into my vision. I was a bit arrogant and didn't listen well to their needs and concerns.

I was definitely an "either/or" person. (Either my way or the highway) I needed to learn about creating narratives that took care of their concerns. I needed to learn about the power of "Yes...and" as opposed to "Yes, ...but.

It took me a long time to learn that aspect of leadership.



Good points.

Visionaries who aren't leaders are a real problem and can cause a lot of harm. If you've ever entered a school district after one of these folks has left, you find a frustrated team that is not willing to trust in any new initiatives.

While leaders always hold the vision for the group; they never look past the realities of the day. If a child throws a chair, it needs to be dealt with. If trust needs to be rebuilt, they go about rebuilding it. If the resources aren't there, they set about getting them. The list goes on....

What I find more often, are administrators who have given up on leading because of all the daily issues that they have to contend with.

"I don't have a moment all day to do anything but deal with problems."

There is no doubt that this is a real issue; but it sounds like the point of view of a victim saying,

"This is happening to me and I have no control to change it."

Leaders will decide, deliberately, to take back their days, and their lives. They will find the balance between the tyranny of the "crisis du jour" and the vision thatthey and their team have committed to.

Anything really worth doing requires the full energy of the heart.


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