Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Be Neither Dreamer or Dictator: Influence Others to Believe in Your Vision


Thomas Jefferson, despite any of his faults, was considered in a recent biography by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham (Thomas Jefferson, The art of Power), a leader able to "articulate national aspirations yet master the mechanics of influence and know when to depart from dogma." He was able to "move men, to balance the inspirational and the pragmatic [as he] realized his vision [through] compromise and improvisation."

I don't profess to have all the answers when I share my vision with stakeholders in my learning community, and I do not present absolutes, pretending to have the solutions to everyone's challenges. The themes of my messages are clear and forthright- I recognize my community's needs and lay out processes by which everyone can collaboratively engage to come up with solutions together. In doing this, I have had success engendering sincere ownership among the faculty/staff, parents, and students in moving the community forward, rather than trying to convince them I can fix the problems with which we're faced.

This post is part of the "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Test of Leadership: Leaving Your World in a Better Place

I've come to grips with my weaknesses and took solace in Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham's assessment of Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson: The art of Power). He says:
We sense his greatness because we know that perfection in politics is not possible but that Jefferson passed the fundamental test of leadership: despite all his shortcomings and all the inevitable disappointments and mistakes and dreams deferred, he left America, and the world, in a better place than it had been when he first entered the arena of public life.
Don't obsess over your foibles. Can you say you changed your world?

This post is part of the "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Harness Your Presentation Strengths to Sway the Crowd

I'm not a very charismatic speaker when I get in front of large audiences. I can articulate my points, move around the room, and make eye contact with my audience, but I don't hold sway over people like many powerful speakers (I'm thinking of people like Harry Wong and Sir Ken Robinson).

Instead, I've come to rely on the two strengths that after 22 years of speaking in front of crowds (and that includes kids) I've finally recognized: 1. I am passionate about the things about which I speak. 2. I have a knack for being able to use striking media that resonantly illustrates my ideas.

I am expressive in different ways when I speak to teachers, parents, or kids. I'll use hand gestures, drastic intonation, and movement around a room to show my sincerity and excitement about my points. No one can deny my passion, but I follow-up my talk (and it's usually brief talk) with a short video or series of pictures and images that "speak" to my points. I like using movie clips or inspirational videos that resonate the theme of my talk. 

Find your presentation strengths. Don't try to be the speaker you're not. Hold sway over the crowd however you can, and you'll get your point across just as well.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Confrontation Hardly Helps a Leader

Confrontation hardly helps a leader.
Here are the words of Thomas Jefferson who determined that direct conflict was unproductive and ineffective:
I never yet saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. Conviction is the effect of our dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude, or weighing within ourselves dispassionately what we hear from others standing uncommitted in argument ourselves. 
I expend a lot of energy trying to convince other people to see things my way. Instead, I acknowledge the other person's points and recognize their validity (everyone is entitled to opinions). Then, I move on and consider both sides of the argument. To my subordinates I make known my decision. To my colleagues I declare my final stance and work hard to compromise so I can see my vision realized.

This post is part of the "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.



Monday, February 3, 2014

Promulgate a Standard of What is Expected From Your Leaders

Lou Cannon's 1991 account of President Ronald Reagan (President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime) speaks much about the president's perceivable "hands-off" policy when he dealt with his appointees (members of cabinet, policy advisors, etc.). Cannon goes so far as to claim Reagan's lack of influence on the people he trusted to aid in his decision-making led to an ugly spate of allegations of their misconduct toward the end of his presidency.

I take away from Cannon's consideration of Reagan's flaw a lesson in leadership- leaders must establish standards by which they hold their subordinates accountable. I have an approach to leading schools I believe has worked effectively (only after having failed more times than I've succeeded in leading) and should expect my leadership team to follow suit. I'll do this by engaging the team in book studies that illustrate my expectations, feedback via evaluations of their performance, and consistent reminders to them about the way I expect them to lead. In these ways I will subtly but surely promulgate the standard of what I expect from those with whom I trust to help me make the important decisions.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Communicating Swiftly and Surely is key to Staying on top of Problems

“We live in a media age of instant reaction and instant analysis" was a remark made by a political strategist when discussing President Obama's need to work social media and other communication tools swiftly in order to get ahead of damaging problems (at the time I write he is having to address issues regarding the Affordable Care Act website and NSA spying on foreign leaders). 

Educational leaders should take a cue- use tools like Honeywell's Instant Alert system and social media applications such as Twitter and Facebook to broadcast information instantaneously. A crisis calls for an immediate response in this age of the cell-phone. Leaders need to stay a step ahead of students and teachers during a lock-down or evacuation by controlling the message as soon as possible. I take to having all of my communication tools set up in one area of my cell phone and iPad with all passwords previously set so I can send out notes on the go in a flash. I rather be the person (as opposed to others "broadcasting" from the scene of the crisis) who dictates the information and response during a critical time.