Two Sides To The Coin

We as educators often fail to recognize the true size and complexity of our organizations.  Organizations that are responsible for multi-million dollar budgets.  Organizations that are often placed under microscopes of scrutiny from variety of sources.  Organizations responsible for employing extensive numbers of individuals in a variety of positions.  Organizations that serve as the social and fiscal hub of the communities in which they reside.  Yet, our educator lens remains focused on our own classrooms or schools in a way that we don’t notice the overall size and effect of our organization.  We have a tendency to not fully grasp the full depth and scope of our organization and the sheer number of students, parents, personnel, and stakeholders they touch.  And with that reality, also comes a deep level of responsibility to those we serve to maintain and improve.

And yet, under that reality, many districts don’t implement and maintain the structures and strategies necessary of great organizations to create and maintain high levels of excellence.  And even worse, they fail to incorporate a systematic way for building up and supporting not only the current, but the future cadre of leaders necessary to maintain and lead their organization into the future.  So not only do our school districts as organizations fail to provide any type of systematic platform, they often rely on a disjointed, word of mouth method for rolling their current personnel upwards.

And as a result…

Instead of a leadership pipeline preparing current staff to take on the leadership roles necessary to deal with the complex and difficult tasks associated with being an educational leader…most districts drop into frantic search mode to replace high level positions that are vacated.

Very often we see superintendents jumping from district to district, rather than districts incubating their own leaders from within with the capabilities and capacities to move forward and fill those vital roles.  Strong, high-functioning organizations emphasize mentoring and preparation programs for those in their ranks.  They put the necessary energy and resources into their own people and into preparing their organization to meet the demands necessary to thrive and succeed in the future.

Educational organizations must make the effort to implement systematic methods for building up leaders throughout our organizations.  We must be prepared for the onrush of leadership voids over the next ten years.  We must to be prepared to fill those voids with quality leadership.  Education has taken its hits over the last few years and can very well not afford to approach our coming leadership voids in a disjointed, and ineffective manner.  We have to create effective and supportive leadership pipelines in our districts.

We can no longer rely on the two sides of the coin approach to educational leadership…

On one side of the coin, like many organizations without a systematic plan for preparing new leaders, we use the ‘currently great‘ approach to determining upward movement.  Meaning, if a person is ‘doing great‘ in their current position, then it shows that they would be great in a new, administrative level position.  And that process has become our mantra for leadership building in our organizations.  We recognize the strength of a teacher…great classroom management skills, strong instructionally, engaged and involved in all meetings, gets along well with students, parents, and colleagues, with an overall positive attitude and enthusiasm…and automatically assume they would make a great administrator.  If they are a great teacher, then they would definitely be a great principal.  The problem with that logic, is that oftentimes it doesn’t work out.  Great teaching skills does not necessarily translate into great leadership skills.  Yet we push those teachers to move upward, whether it is a passion or pursuit of theirs as a professional.  Often to the detriment of that individual.  We assume that they want to move up…and often, move up they do.

Which then gives us the flip side of the coin…we not only push these teachers into leadership roles, we do it with the assumption that they will automatically excel.  We assume that a great teacher will automatically flourish as a principal.  And that assumption leave most of them in a sink or swim environment.  Not that it is done maliciously, rather lack of support structures and ongoing training impedes their chances to be successful in their new role.

And to make the situation even worse, when they struggle or falter in their new role, very little is done to correct the situation other than to determine they must not be administrator material.  Obviously they were not made out to be a principal.  And the underlying problem remains, we did not provide the sufficient supports to provide this new leader the proper chance to be successful…rather, we set them in a sink or swim atmosphere and then wondered why they failed when they were such a great classroom teacher.

We must continually remember that our schools and districts are large and complex organizations.  And they must be led as such.  And we must also remember that teachers entered the profession to teach.  Most did not plan on or train to lead a school or a district.  They spent their years of training focused on teaching, not leading…focused on strategies for student learners, rather than strategies for leading organizational change efforts.  Leading adults and organizations is a similar, yet very different venture than leading the students in the classroom.  It takes different skill-sets and abilities.  And an entirely different set of obstacles.

We cannot put our hope in our universities and colleges to send educational leaders to our schools and districts with the necessary training to successfully traverse the complexities required to lead modern day educational institutions.  It calls upon us, within our educational organizations, to provide our own leadership pipeline to meet the rigors and requirements necessary to make our schools and districts move forward as beacons of excellence.

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One thought on “Two Sides To The Coin

  1. We often become so busy in the now that we forget about preparing for tomorrow. Last year we had a large cadre of new leaders in our system. We started a monthly orientation for them and by all the feedback it was well received. In addition we resurrected our leadership program for teachers in the system. This is in direct response to the number of retirements that we will be experiencing in the next 5-7 years. It is a good reminder that leadership preparation is crucial for the future of schools and divisions.

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