Thursday, April 5, 2012

An inversion of expertise

Just finished watching four-star general, Stanley McChrystal's TED Talk and discussing with some school board members from around the state.  We talked a bit about our stereotype of the military compared to what McChrystal talked about.

First, that the leader is not the expert. McChrystal talked about the inversion of expertise; that the pace of change, particularly regarding communication tools, means that the leader needs to learn to be comfortable with the fact that he or she may not have the market cornered on technical expertise.  That instead, the leader needs to listen; that developing personal relationships is some of the most important work the leader can do; that others will bring important expertise to the table.

That diversity needs to be embraced.  The troops he leads are diverse--age, gender, experience.  You need to create a climate that uses experiences and skill sets of a diverse group of people.

So much of what McChrystal talked about applies to public education.  Our leaders must adapt to a new context, one where leadership means building relationships, not making all of the decisions from on high.

We need to engage with diverse stakeholders--both internal staff and external community.  We need to develop personal relationships.  And most of all, as leaders, we need to be willing to learn and to trust.

Surprising that this is the message of a military man.  I think that is what makes it so powerful for me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Are you on a mission?

Okay, those of you who know me, know that I am a baseball fan.  More explicitly, a Cubs fan.  And, if you follow baseball at all, you know the Cubs have new leadership.  You know that Theo Epstein came from the Boston Red Sox to change the Cubs culture; to end the 102 year losing streak.

I was watching an interview with Tom Ricketts, owner of the Cubs, talking about the change in leadership.  He said something, that caught my ear.  He said, "these guys are on a mission."

Well, it seems to me that there are some parallels here between baseball and public education.  It has been at least 102 years that the basic structure of how public education is delivered has been in place.  So, my question to school board members is this:  Are you on a mission?  Are you focused on creating a culture that brings about the kinds of changes we need to meet the needs of today's students?