Scott McLeod of the Dangerously Irrelevant blog has declared July 12, 2009 as Leadership Day 2009. He’s been doing this for two years now, and each year I’ve participated with a post.
- 2007 – Leaders of the Future where I focused in developing the leader in every learner.
- 2008 – Just Do It where I urged administrators to stop waiting for the district reorg or the next version of Windows or that bandwidth you were promised 3 years ago and get moving. Listen to kids, don’t listen the teachers who can’t seem to manage an email account, damn the torpedos and full steam ahead.
So what to do for 2009? I still believe that leadership has to be nurtured at every level. I still believe that we can’t wait for some perfect storm to implement our perfect plan. So what’s new?
What’s new in my mind is that it’s all linked together with choice, and more specifically agency. I’ve become increasingly aware that there is no leadership without choice at every level. I’m not talking about the now politicized “school choice” nor a meaningless choice between two barely distinguishable options. This isn’t about picking a red or blue cover for your 5 page essay. Students must have choices and true agency over their own learning.
To accomplish this, you must also have teachers who have choices and true agency over their own classroom and a say in their own school. Administrators who are leaders must have agency, choice, and a vision that others can follow – if they choose. If they are leaders, people will follow. But only if there is a real option to not follow. You aren’t a leader if everything is decided in advance. You aren’t be a leader if your followers are just there for the paycheck, or if they are students, graduation credit.
Leadership is inextricably bound to free will, in the same way democracy is.
And to insist on choice and agency, you must believe that learning is natural and that most children want to learn. You must believe that most teachers really do want to reach children and nurture that amazing natural spark; you must believe that most parents love their children and want what’s best for them. To believe otherwise is to crush that delicate flower with the iron glove of control. That’s not leadership.
“Unless the people who live in schools day in and day out, principally the kids and staff, are entrusted to use their intelligence on behalf of the task at hand, we’ll not get change for the better. Anything else is inefficient, a waste of our precious time and resources.” Deborah Meier, The Power of Their Ideas 1995
I like Scott’s graphic for Leadership Day 2009 – but if it were up to me, every light bulb would be lit. That’s leadership.