Much of the content on this blog, Technology for Learners, is about innovation. I see ever more clearly that leadership and innovation go hand in hand. After all, it is not possible to implement any meaningful innovation without leadership.
I have been reading the book, ‘The Human Side of School Change’ by Robert Evans, and to consolidate my own understanding of his great book, I’ve just made these notes on key points about innovation and leadership:
1. Every educator is a change agent, helping students to learn and grow.
2. Authentic leaders embrace projects that reflect their values and institutional goals. They concentrate on what matters to them. They have definite notions of what is important, and they pay attention to these targets.
3. It is mainly through consistent beliefs and goals expressed in consistent actions that we perceive a leader’s integrity. Authentic leaders translate their beliefs and values into concrete actions at a fundamental level.
4. Whether it is challenging thoroughly resistant staff or staying close to students or spending large amounts of time on the job – or exemplifying virtue – authentic leaders embody character in action: they don’t just say, they do.
5. Educators want leaders who offer proof or promise of being able to “make things happen”, whether this means fixing problems, finding resources, or handling people. These traits build a basic platform without which a leader lacks presence and clout and is not taken seriously.
6. All leaders, if they are to be passionate about what they do, need to know what they stand for. According to Evans, this involves exploring one’s own values and core beliefs. Most educators in education have values that cluster around two main headings, “equity” and “excellence”. Some educators stress the importance of opportunity, fairness, diversity and community. They are likely to promote the idea of “growth mindset” and that “all children can learn”. Other educators emphasise goals, challenge, responsibility, and striving. They are more likely to speak of “excellence” and “standards”, of bringing out the best in children by measuring them against high benchmarks. Most educators share both these values to some degree, although differences of emphasis can lead to significant differences in the kinds of schools they develop.
7. It’s a good habit to reflect on our strengths in order to identify one’s core beliefs and values. In doing so, the essence of what matters most to us can be found.
In my own case, having reflected on my core values, they can be summarised as follows:
These core values now guide my mission as an educator and school leader. I believe that both teaching and learning should help us to create amazing experiences for ourselves and others. Learning is best when we’re inquisitive, motivated and happy. Learning itself therefore, should be an engaging and creative activity, which enables us to interact with the world in a meaningful way. This is why it’s easy for me to be passionate about STEAM and any pedagogy, which promotes enquiry-based learning and international-mindedness.
8. It is only by identifying our core beliefs and values that we can be authentic leaders, as we are then able to communicate both to ourselves and others what we stand for.
9. As well as being authentic, research has shown that the most successful leaders of innovation all fulfilled four key roles:
1. Resource provider
2. Instructional resource
4. Visible presence
Interestingly, each of these roles can be exercised in very different ways whilst still being effective. According to Fullan (1991, pp. 158), some leaders are “strong, aggressive, fearless”, others “quiet, nurturing, supportive”. The most successful leaders are “not human chameleons, but…people of distinctive personalities who behave consistently in accordance with that personality” (Badaracco and Ellsworth, pp. 208).
10. Leaders’ greatest assets are “their own passions for the organisation and its mission and their own common sense when it comes to getting the most out of the people they have” (Vaill, 1989, pp. 19).
Every way of leading, like every way of being, has deficits as well as advantages. For example, a leader can be remarkably patient and sensitive, yet lack assertiveness to confront those who abuse the system. On the other hand, another leader might tolerate conflict well, demonstrate impressive courage and perseverance, but make enemies too easily, and be ineffective at compromising when necessary. The best approach then, is to be an authentic leader with self awareness. According to Evans (pp. 200), by taking this approach, one is better equipped to compensate for any limitations and is unlikely to dwell on them. Finally, the leader must not just advocate, but exemplify the changes desired before asking staff to do so.