Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Coach K on leadership

Don’t miss this excellent interview from Sim Sitkin and Richard Hackman, “Developing team leadership: an interview with Coach Mike Krzyzewski.” (Link to PDF)


Teaching successful failure

Carol Dweck (author of Mindset) would completely agree with Seth Godin’s perspective on failure.

Leaders in every industry bear this truth in the shape of their careers.

Why, then, do our school cultures remain averse to teaching successful failure?





How ideas gain audience

Over at Project Domino, Seth Godin identifies three factors relevant to a spreading idea –  “a fabulous idea, a compelling salesperson and a media channel that enables that idea to spread.” Read all about it here.

Independent schools should learn something from this concept. Combine  a story about an innovative school program (fabulous idea) told by our students (compelling salesperson) over social media channels (a cheap, simple way to spread the idea to a broad audience), and we have a much larger market than we might expect.

I wonder what Seth would think of Philips Andover’s approach. According to Ian Symonds, this sort of video reveals the “new normal” of independent school marketing.

Will we wait until social media becomes yesterday’s news before we turn its possibility to our advantage?

A leader’s legacy

Every sitting or aspiring head at every independent school should consider the implications Michael Schrage presents here.

The greatest threat to Steve Jobs’s legacy….is his board of directors.

Jobs himself feared this. “Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they had left it in good hands,” Jobs told Isaacson. “But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed. I hope I’ve left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple.”

Leaving a charismatic legacy is one thing; leaving behind a board with wisdom, judgment, and entrepreneurial courage is quite another….Board competence — as much or more than successor CEO headmaster capabilities — determine how well cultural values and leadership legacies endure or ebb away.

Independent schools flourished by the strength of many hands even before Pearl Rock Kane gave “farewell” to the “lone warrior” leadership model. Without many hands making vision into familiar and constant practice, even the visions of a prophet will fade.

Do our distinguishing programs rely on the vision of a single leader, or upon communal values established and maintained throughout our governance?

Have we led the communal work of establishing powerful mission and shared purpose drawn from a vision, or do we hope a “strong reputation” and “the highest expectations” will be sufficient?

At every level of our leadership, we should know what will change – and will NOT change – upon our departure – if we wish to build an enduring legacy within our schools.

Apple will answer these questions, one way or the other, in days ahead – as will each independent school community facing leadership transitions.

Learning resilience through school admission

We are counting down to this year’s announcement day for high school acceptances. The season begins with boarding school announcements this week; Augusta’s magnet programs will announce their acceptances at the end of March; Augusta’s independent schools are already admitting applicants.

Jane Foley Fried, dean of admissions for one of the most prestigious and selective boarding schools in the world, posted an insightful, considerate, and utterly compassionate blog entry with wise counsel regarding what to do while waiting for – and after  receiving – The Envelope.

The harsh reality remains that we do not learn resilience without failure, and often repeated failure. We test the truths within our souls under such circumstances.

I have paraphrased and shortened this from Seneca’s thirteenth letter. “It is only in this way that the true spirit can be tested – the spirit that will never consent to come under the jurisdiction of things external to ourselves. This is the touchstone of such a spirit; no prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the [one]… who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.”

What lessons will we teach our students in the long hours of waiting before the envelopes arrive?

What lessons will we teach our students in the moments after the envelope is opened?

Will we act with maturity – as Kipling, to “meet with Triumph or Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same”, or will we be something less than what we ought to be?

The young royalty watch us, and will remember the lessons of our actions long after the envelope has been forgotten.

The rise and fall of an industry

Schools (public and private) face a wave of retirements in the decade to come.

A conversation on generational conflict at the Drucker Exchange points at a teaching from Peter Drucker on declining industries: “The first sign of decline of an industry is loss of appeal to qualified, able and ambitious people.”

I wonder how the Merlyns of today will find and train those who will also devote their lives to the vocation of training young royalty.

How have you prepared someone else to fill Merlyn’s seat?

Expanding the perspective of teamwork

Many  job descriptions & advertisements ask for “a team player.”

Demonstrating collaborative work is usually easy enough, but what about utilizing the team around you?

Mary Ellen Slayter’s article adds an important element to the discussion of teamwork – what happens when a team member is unused?

For the leader, being a team player means a commitment to working through the team rather than doing the work yourself.

Deciding alone is choosing to work without your team. Deciding with only part of the team says, “We don’t need Person X on our team.”

The entire team will hear two messages: one, Person X is unimportant, and two, I could be Person X tomorrow.

Use your entire team, or it’s not a team effort.

Use your brain. Really.

I find myself enthused by the growing body of research examining the human brain.

Understanding brain functions directly parallels an athlete’s understanding of how muscles and joints and cardiopulmonary systems work – and can be improved.

Bruna Martinuzzi’s discourse on how knowledge of your brain can make you a better leader. I applaud the reference to Your Brain at Work, an excellent book by David Rock (nifty lecture at Google), and also encourage you to consider Dr. Joann Deak’s Girls Will Be Girls. [I met Dr. Deak at gcLi in 2008, and she spoke at the SAIS conference in fall 2009. You can check out Dr. Deak’s group here.]

Greenleaf Conference: Emerging Leaders with Courtney Knies

[Authorial privilege: What brought me to her workshop was Courtney’s four years as a Bonner Scholar at Depauw University in Indiana. I was a Bonner at Carson-Newman (’95) and proud to support the efforts of another Bonner Scholar.]

Ms. Knies and her warm personality quickly drew the group into discussion around four central points.

  1. How I teach my peers about service leadership;
  2. How I learned about servant leadership;
  3. how servant leadership is/was cultivated in my life;
  4. other ways servant leadership can be taught

1. How I teach my peers

Ms. Knies introduced the topic with engaging service-related quotes on construction paper with key words covered, allowing participants to use their intuition to fill in the blank before lifting the cover to reveal the original quote.

Ms. Knies suggested another activities to introduce servant leadership, including using a flipchart and working together to define the words “leader” and “servant.” She also shared a personal self-assessment tool using Ken Keith’s seven key practices on servant leadership (from “The Case for Servant Leadership”).

Ms. Knies observed that games work with nearly any age group, as all of us have a little part of us that wants to go back to childhood – it’s often refreshing to play old games. Reflection remains central to the process. “The heart of servant leadership involves figuring it out for yourself.”

2. How I learned about servant leadership

Ms. Knies asked participants to share their stories with servant leadership and how that philosophy has become present in their practice. One participant commented about the difference between illusion and reality in servant leadership; some leaders incorrectly think they are practicing servant leadership.

Ms. Knies described her experience at Depauw University, specifically a month-long intensive course on “Classroom and Community: connecting civic engagement to real life”. “I distinctively remember [reading Larry Spears’s ten characteristics of a servant leader] and asking each other, ‘What’s special about this list?’ After reflection and identifying people with those characteristics, we realized that almost all of the people on our list had been assassinated….this clued us in to how powerful this might be, that these people became so powerful that the change they were creating was that threatening.”

3. How servant leadership was cultivated in my life

Ms. Knies provided a delightful orientation to the Bonner Scholar program, a national program committed to providing scholarships to students willing to complete over 2,000 hours of community service throughout their undergraduate career. The Bonner experience differs in implementation from campus to campus, yet the common bonds of service (and apparently some phrases such as “Bonner love”) bind Bonner Scholars.

Five “E’s” of the Bonner Program:

  1. Expectation – signing the line – making the commitment
  2. Exploration – freshman – figuring out what inspires you
  3. Experience – sophomore – focusing on your service passion; more than a volunteer, but an intern. (Ms. Knies served as a math teacher at a small Lutheran school).
  4. Example – junior – what can you contribute at a higher level? (Ms. Knies offered a anti-bullying curriculum to the school where she taught)
  5. Excellence – senior – mentoring younger Bonner Scholars; further developing skills

Common commitments of the Bonner program (these only appeared about 10 years ago)

  1. Social justice (equity) – learning to prioritize needs of the community
  2. Civic engagement – redefining communities from the frame of servant leadership; listening; building others up as future leaders, committed to a sustainable model of leadership
  3. Spiritual engagement  (as a self-reflective exercise)
  4. International perspective. Our definitions of community are changing (50 people attending this conference from 11 different countries) How can these conversations continue, and how can servant leadership create a common language?
  5. Diversity – all kinds, not just ethnic – how can servant leadership help advance those conversations?

[Authorial interruption: As a Bonner alumnus, I am proud of the program’s development. Back in the day, we were really worried about getting in our 10 hours a week. The phrase “service learning” was less than two years old when I entered the program. Now, Bonner Scholars are changing the world!]

4. Other ways servant leadership can be taught

During the discussion, Ms. Knies shared information from her senior thesis addressing the question, “How is Greenleaf’s theory of servant leadership taught in higher education?”

Her interviews included thirty individuals at different institutions. Her findings included:

  • little difference in servant leadership programs regardless of the age of the program at that institution;
  • 60% of the servant leadership programs offer a course, certificate, or degree;
  • 8% of the programs involved a cocurricular experience (like the Bonner program);
  • about 25% of the programs focused on one-time events;
  • about 50% had over 50 students involved at any time, revealing that many people are learning about servant leadership at any time.
  • 76 percent of the programs said servant leadership was the main focus;
  • 23 percent said servant leadership was presented as another model of leadership.
  • All respondents used real-life examples;
  • 81% of the programs included a reflective & responsive element.