Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Eight Leadership Essentials
In my own experiences and those of the individuals with whom I have connected through social media, I have witnessed patterns of behavior that, in my mind, capture effective leadership. Leadership is a combination of art, science, and human nature. For some, it is an innate process; for others, it evolves and is refined over time. We all have the ability to lead, although many choose not to lead. There is also no perfect way to lead, as leadership strategies and practices need to adapt to the various dynamic environments in which leaders find themselves.
Schools need individuals to establish a collective vision and put it into action to improve professional practice, whether that leadership comes from administrators or teachers or a combination of both. Schools cannot be successful if this does not happen, and the success of our students depends on how well leaders guide the majority to embrace meaningful change. Below are ten essential elements of leadership that I feel can effect change.
- Modeling: In my opinion, the best leaders model their expectations for their employees and peers. The best leaders not only talk the talk, but they also walk the walk. Don’t ask your employees or colleagues do something that you are not prepared to do. Better yet, show them what the practice can and should look like in action.
- Not looking for buy-in: Effective leaders should not have to “sell” their employees and colleagues on a better way of doing things. Intrinsic motivation is the most powerful force we have to initiate and sustain change. Think about how you can get people to embrace a new idea, strategy, or initiative. If you do this, the chances are you will have real results. Start out by simply removing the words “buy-in” from your vocabulary.
- Providing support: Support comes in many forms – financial, time, and professional learning opportunities. The lack of any (or all) of these should never be an excuse to not move forward. Support begins with adopting a “no-excuse” attitude and the resilience to always seek out solutions to the many problems that arise. Support should also be differentiated. As we have come to know with our students, a one-size-fits-all approach never works.
- Learning from failure: Everyone fails. That is life. The key point, however, is that failure is one of the greatest learning tools we have. We don’t like it, but it should be embraced. If leaders are afraid to fail, then nothing will ever change. Leadership is all about risks and rewards. With every risk there is the potential for failure looming around the corner. Learning from our experiences—including our failures—empowers leaders to be fearless change agents. Admitting when we have failed actually inspires others.
- Transparency: Leaders’ decisions and actions are not challenged as much if those leaders are transparent. Effective leaders use transparency to assist with the embracement of change. This is accomplished through a combination of communication, shared decision-making, consensus, debate, and social media. In the end, all stakeholders should know why and how a leader made a particular decision and how that decision impacts the system. Transparent leaders to not micromanage, give credit to others when initiatives succeed, and take the blame things fail.
- Flexibility: Stubbornness and rigidity are clear indicators of a top-down approach to leadership. This almost always builds resentment and animosity towards change. Leaders who are flexible listen to other points of view, bend when necessary, and are not afraid to change course if things are not going well.
- Resilience: Leadership is fraught with challenges on a daily basis. There will always be people second-guessing, undermining, and ignoring decisions that are made. Effective leadership requires something between having empathy and having a thick skin. This results in resilience. Without resilience, one’s ability to lead effectively will be severely diminished.
- Never passing the buck: If you are—or want to be—a leader, you must always remember that there is no passing the buck. When final decisions have to be made, they must be made with confidence, clarity, and decisiveness.
Obviously the image above and my list are not an exhaustive list, but rather a reflection based on experience and observation. What do you think are the essential principles of effective leadership that might fall outside of the list that I have provided?
By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News
POSTED: 09/17/13, 7:52 PM PDT |
LAUSD approves $113M budget to train teachers for Common Core standards
After debating nearly two hours and voting down a proposed compromise, the Los Angeles Unified board on Tuesday approved a plan for spending $113 million to implement a new curriculum — the same budget that triggered the resignation of the district’s instructional chief when it was rejected last week.
Over the last month, the board has been discussing the best way to spend state money to prepare educators, students and parents for the Common Core — the more rigorous math and English standards taking effect next fall. It settled Tuesday on a two-year budget that includes $25 million to elevate 162 teachers to coaching positions, where they would train other teachers in the new curriculum. There’s also about $15 million for teacher training and $10 million for summer school.
And as a result of concerns raised by the board in August, each school will receive $70 per student that it can use to address specific needs related to the rollout of the Common Core.
The board’s 6-1 approval, with former teacher Monica Ratliff dissenting, followed an 11th-hour effort by board member Steve Zimmer to craft a compromise that retained portions of the district’s plan, but also gave a nod to the teachers union’s request for more money for training and demands from parents that money be set aside to educate them about the new lessons their children will be learning.
His plan also included a daylong “convocation” next year to celebrate the launch of Common Core across the district.
After a lengthy debate, his proposal was defeated 4-3. Zimmer said later that he was disappointed his proposal hadn’t passed but that it had served its purpose of triggering a robust discussion of the Common Core plan.
“The goal was to create substantive debate, and that’s what we had,” said Zimmer, the board’s vice president. “The superintendent now has a budget, and instead of a conversation that was all over the place we had a discussion that dealt with qualitative and substantive issues.”
Zimmer also said he planned to bring back his idea to have some sort of recognition of start of the Common Core, which is being implemented in California and 45 other states.
Superintendent John Deasy said little after the vote, except that he would be moving forward with it as quickly as possible.
A week earlier, Deasy and his instructional chief, Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino, had met with resistance from the board when they presented the same budget proposal. On Friday, Aquino submitted his resignation, saying the board had been interfering too much in the day-to-day management of the district, which was threatening the progress made in boosting student achievement.
Aquino was not in his usual seat on the board dais during Tuesday’s meeting.
But the board appeared to be indirectly addressing his concerns during their discussion, with board President Richard Vladovic saying he was not trying to micromanage the administration with his suggestions about the budget and that members were simply “setting a direction ” in passing the spending plan.
After the meeting, United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher expressed concern that the new teaching coaches will be spread too thin, with 61 English and 61 math specialists to oversee training at more than 1,000 campuses.
He also accused the district of trying to train its teachers “on the cheap,” with after-school training sessions for which they’ll receive just a fraction of their regular pay. He backed Zimmer’s plan, which would have paid teachers more for attending full-day training sessions. In both cases, the training is voluntary and in addition to the weekly professional development sessions held at every school.
The meeting had been scheduled specifically to address the Common Core budget and began about 90 minutes past its scheduled starting time of noon. Vladovic apologized for the delay, saying the board had faced a weighty agenda for the executive session that preceded the meeting.
During the closed-door meeting, the board OK’d the promotion of district lobbyist Edgar Zazueta to the newly created position of chief of external affairs. Zazueta said he’ll continue to oversee LAUSD’s lobbying efforts in Sacramento while serving as Deasy’s community representative in Los Angeles. His new post pays about $146,000, a raise of $9,000 a year, he said.
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