Monday, December 27, 2010

Architects of Performance

Doug Reeves develops his own definition of leadership.

Leaders are the architects of improved individual and organizational performance.


First, the architect designs, but does not do, the work of building.


Second, the successful leader is by definition, dissatisfied with the status quo.

The third, and most important implication of my definition of leadership is the inclusive emphasis of individual and organizational performance.

Gentle Encouragement and Uncompromising Demands

Doug Reeves describes his goal as a classroom teacher to create...

...but I knew that my tasks was a difficult balance between gentle encouragement and uncompromising demands.

He tells the story of a young man who met him in a book store years later and thanked him for what he taught him. Reeves concludes that...

I am fairly certain, however, that the thanks Marcus offered would not have been merited if I had created a classroom characterized by false reassurance and the absence of challenge.
-Doug Reeves The Daily Disciplines of Leadership

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Being Intersted

Fast Company had a recent article on the Global Leadership Summit put on yearly by Willow Creek Church in Chicago. One of the attendees remarked that Jim Collins had shared a story of a professor who said, "...instead of spending so much time trying to be interesting, he should try to be interested".

Leaders should spend a lot less time worrying about whether people like them, find them interesting or motivational, and simply show genuine interest in the lives of others. Michael Hyatt recently wrote about his experience sitting down with Billy Graham when Michael was a young acquisitions editor with Thomas Nelson. What he experienced was Billy Graham's complete demonstration of interest and attention to Michael and no evidence of self absorption. This lesson stayed with him for years as an example of authentic and selfless leadership.

Our schools need humble and compassionate leaders who will give their staff, parents, and students their undivided attention, which is the greatest sign of respect and love they can offer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Jersey Coalition for World Class Math - A False Dichotomy

This excerpt from an article by Hung-Hsi Wu, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, makes a strong case for keeping both basic skills and conceptual understanding as complimentary options in math instruction. Why do we have this tendency to jump from one extreme to the other instead of embracing a nuanced and integrated approach?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Quality Teaching

Today I had the great fortune of discussing quality teaching with several of my colleagues from the Chula Vista Elementary School District. These Principals came to our school to observe proficient teachers and discuss the indicators of successful teaching. The conversation was a true discussion around the areas of communication, engagement, questioning, assessment, and more. We had a rich debate on the indicators of true engagement, reflecting that most teachers don't get past compliance or mental assent to the topics at hand. The ideal is that students become cognitively engaged in the work, in short, that they THINK. However, some suggested that the more elementary learning of mastering facts and skills is a necessary and prerequisite step that will enable students to eventually have those cognitively demanding and robust conversations. You can't start off with cognitively demanding tasks until you've laid the foundation of background knowledge and skills that support those deeper level conversations and learnings.

My big take away today was that we need to provide opportunities for our whole staff to engage in similar conversations around quality teaching in order to arrive at a common definition of what quality teaching looks like. Their participation in the dialogue would hasten the improvement of teacher practice, which is our ultimate goal.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Just do Something

Kevin De Young's book on decision making fits right into my frame of mind as the new school year looms on the horizon. The title, "Just Do Something" reminds me of one of my leadership maxims of having "A Bias towards Action".

Year one at my new school was a challenge on many levels going to a school twice the size of my former school. It's great to be past that transition phase with a new staff and community and I'm eagerly looking forward to the work our teacher leaders and administration will be implementing during this school year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Helping People Succeed

My definition of a leader is someone who helps people succeed."

--Carol Bartz, Yahoo! CEO

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Heaven for Harry Truman

Here is Harry Truman's idea of heaven according to his daughter Margaret:

"Oh, to have a good comfortable chair, a good reading lamp, and lots of books around that he wanted to read."

Friday, January 01, 2010

Dewey Derailed

In Tim Irwin's excellent book De-Railed, he investigates six modern CEOs who have led organizations into some large pitfalls. His purpose is demonstrate that we can learn from the mistakes of others to avoid falling into the same traps. David McCullough unearthed another failed leader in his outstanding biography of Harry Truman. No, not Truman himself, but Thomas Dewey who ran for President in 1944 and 1948 seemed to embody several of the attributes that Mr. Irwin warned could lead to catastrophe. Irwin mentioned that faltering leaders usually fail on one or more of the following areas:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Self-management
  3. Humility
  4. Courage

How did Dewey blow a lead so large (14 points) that pollsters like Elmo Roper decided in September to stop doing any more polls, declared Dewey the winner by a larger margin, and devoted himself to something more profitable? Let's see how Dewey measured up in these categories.

1. Authenticity: A remark attributed to the wife of a New York Republican politician would be widely repeated. "You have to know Mr. Dewey well", she said, "in order to dislike him." A farmer was asked about Dewey after the election and he said, "I kept reading about that Dewey fellow and the more I read the more he reminded me of one of those slick ads trying to get money out of my pocket."

3. Humility - His campaign train was filled with over 90 reporters who unanimously thought he would win and make an excellent chief executive, but they disliked him personally because of his haughty and aloof manner.

2. Self Management: One event on the campaign trail cost him dearly. The engineer of the train caused a lurch that knocked some bystanders to the ground. Dewey responded, "That's the first lunatic I've had for an engineer. He probably ought to be shot at sunrise ..."

4. Courage - His speeches were noteworthy for platitudes and a clear lack of controversy or new ideas. His goal was not to upset anyone, assuming that his large lead was safe and could only be threatened by risky challenges to the opposition. Dewey told Senator Robert A. Taft that when he got into controversies he lost votes - an observation Taft thought disgraceful.

Clearly Mr. Dewey exhibited all of the characteristics of a failed leader. Truman, on the other hand, was not liked very much by the press or the talking heads of his day, but he won over the average American with his straight talking and direct manner.

Check out Michael Hyatt's post about General George B. McClellan as described in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals. He highlights five flaws to avoid that were characteristic of the leadership failure of this weak leader.