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.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Love and Care for Your Faculty

I was inspired by a story in the New York Times (September 19, 2013) about the Cleveland Indians baseball team’s new manager- Terry Francona. Turning the ball club around during the 2013 season, Francona has been praised for the hard work he’s put forth developing relationships with his players. In fact, the headline of the Times article reads, “Francona’s Approach Draws Raves in Cleveland.” Turns out, Francona finishes his game-day preparation early in the day and before his players arrive at the park so he can devote his time to bonding with them.

I’ll take my cues from this successful leader and dedicate my early morning and late night hours tending to paperwork so I can be available to my teachers and leadership team during the school day. I hope my school district’s faculty will say the same about me that Cleveland’s ball players have said about Terry Francona- “[Terry] has this unbelievable care and love for his players…[he] reconfirms to to me that you can have that relationship and be successful.”

My teachers, principals, and supervisors are the players responsible for driving my school system to “world class” status. I’ll give them my love and support so they have a strong emotional foundation on which to get there.