Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big ideas about school leadership

At a early New Zealand Principal's Conference I heard Australian educator Hedley Beare say the an ideal 'leader' principal would be a customised Indiana Jones - ready and able to take risks and happily cut through red tape but aways on the side of righteousness.

Such 'leadership' is not part of the DNA of many principals who prefer to play it safe and comply with imposed regulations. I see schools going along , to get along, with National Standards.

Recently I read on the Internet list of ten big ideas of school leadership written by a Middle School Principal of the Year.They seemed to make sense to me So I have picked them over to share with whoever reads this.

1 The focus of 'your' school must be on the success of kids 100% of the time. All too often, it seems, we try to fit kids into our expectations and in the process ignore the ideas, questions, points of view, and talents the students bring with them. And we see any conflict with students as a problem rather then as a means to work out a mutual better solutions.

2 Leaders need to create a vision,write it down,and start implementing it. It is important not to put your vision in drawer and forget about it and hope for the best. Every decision must be aligned against the vision and beliefs that underpin it. The whole school community is watching when you make a decision so consistency, by referencing decisions against the vision, is important.

3 It's the people stupid. The secret of managing is to keep the people who hate you away from those who are undecided. Hire people who support your vision, who are prepared to learn and who like kids.

4 Keep the paddles in the water. When navigating dangerous rapids in raft the only way to succeed is for everyone in the boat to sit on the edge and paddle really hard even though everyone would rather sit in the centre where it is safer. In times of school crisis everybody must be involved.

5 Find time to think and worry during the day. You are never always going to have a good days so it is OK to stare at the wall, reflect on the vision, and think about how to make necessary changes. Value input from other but ask those who provide it to provide possible solutions as well.

6 Take responsibility for the good and bad. The solutions to problems are almost always right in front of you; the genius of the school lies within the school. Imposed solutions have their consequences. Don't give away your responsibility.

7 You have ultimate responsibility. Have very clear expectations derived from the school vision and beliefs and then make sure people have the knowledge, resources, and time to accomplish expectations. Autonomy is the goal but actions need to be within the bounds of the vision.

8 Have bias for yes.
The only progress you ever make in life involves risk.Ideas that teachers and others may suggest may seem a little crazy but try to makes such requests into a yes. Use the vision as a self reference and encourage others to do so.

9 Consensus is over rated. Twenty percent of the people will be against anything. When you realize this you avoid compromising what really should be done because you stop watering things down.If you always reach consensus you are being led by the 20%

10 Large changes need to be done quickly. If you wait too long to make changes to a school culture you have already sanctioned mediocre behaviour because you are allowing it.That is when change is hard. Define with the staff the behaviours required by the vision and belief and hold people accountable to them.

Seems like good advice if principals want to be real leaders!

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