"Super" Spruce Scoop

Volume 1 Edition 23

March 23, 2015

Expectations & Leadership Density

There are many facets of principal leadership which can make an impact on students and staff. During our District Principals' Meeting, Mr. Miles talked with us about expectations and leadership density. During our feeder pattern Principals' Meeting, I talked about all of us managing our expectations. Also, throughout the school year, we have been focusing on leadership density given it is a lever for school change.

Therefore, it seems that we have the right focus to make the greatest impact on our schools. Please consider how you and your leadership team are managing expectations by providing immediate support and setting a timeline for the needed adjustment. Finally, reflect upon how you are building leadership density among your A-Team and what you might do to further enhance that work. Let's do good work which will get people to Turn Their Heads! T.T.H.

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  • Moseley Elementary School - During my recent visit to Moseley Elementary School, we were able to observe each teacher on the entire first grade team. We saw print-rich classrooms where teachers were purposeful with their instruction. Several teachers were observed providing small group instruction with others providing whole group instruction. For those providing whole group instruction, there was good evidence of strong student engagement across the grade level. We also saw many anchor charts throughout classrooms to support student learning. Nice leadership, Rocio! See pictures below as well as Ms. Tucker and her class above. She did an outstanding job of using engagement strategies with students demonstrating the protocols perfectly.

Marshall Memo - Jim Collins on School Leadership

At our last Spruce feeder pattern Principals' meeting, we discussed leadership and read an article to make connections to our leadership. In the latest edition of Marshall Memo, a really good article was featured from an interview conducted with well-known author, Jim Collins. Most of us know him from his work in Good to Great. Please read below.

Jim Collins on School Leadership

In this Independent School interview, editor Michael Brosnan questions Good to Great author Jim Collins about the principalship. Some highlights:

Schools’ big-picture mission – Based on his work analyzing businesses, social-service agencies, schools, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Collins says, “I happen to believe that the single most important investment we can make as a society is to get as many kids as possible to a strong starting point for adult life by the end of high school.”

Unit-level leadership – One revelation for Collins at West Point was the critical

importance of what he calls “unit-level leadership” – which in schools is the role filled by the principal. This level of leadership is especially important in challenging times. He compares the way we evaluate a mountaineering guide on an easy trail versus braving a howling storm on the side of K2. “There,” he says, “whether you are an exceptional leader or an unexceptional leader is going to be exposed. This turns out to be true for all organizations facing challenges, including schools.”

Three keys to greatness – To be exemplary, Collins says, an organization must meet these criteria: (a) Getting superior results relative to its particular mission; (b) Having a unique impact on the world, such that people would truly notice its absence; and (c) Enduring over time, through multiple cycles of leadership. “If your school or organization or company cannot be great without you as its leader, it is not yet a great enterprise,” he says. “In order to be great, you have to render it not dependent on you.”

Building clocks versus telling time – Collins and his colleagues like this metaphor. Time-tellers are go-to people with the right information and all the answers, but everyone is dependent on them. “For more sustainability, great leaders realize that they have to build a clock that can tell the time long after they are gone,” says Collins. “The leader’s real task is to think about how he or she builds the clock.” That means enduring values, a clear mission, organizational structures and procedures, competent people, and a culture that keeps everyone’s eyes on the prize and allows the organization to weather difficult times.

Simultaneously preserving the core and stimulating progress – Another important leadership trait is the ability to develop and execute a set of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) that are in synch with the organization’s values and mission but take them to the next level. “This is the yin and the yang of organizations,” says Collins, “and they play off of each other constantly. The core comprises essential values and purpose… The stimulating progress part doesn’t mess with those values. But it does look at ways to improve on their delivery. It’s about looking forward – about doing new stuff, doing things better, doing big things, and even looking beyond one’s tenure.”

Level 5 versus Level 4 leadership – Level 4 leaders are, deep down, all about themselves, their ego, and their careers. Ninety percent of the time, Collins says, the people who successfully transform struggling organizations are Level 5 leaders. They share two characteristics: they’re almost always from inside the organization, and they are seldom charismatic. “The tendency is to think you need someone with a proven track record,” says Collins. “Most great leaders grow into becoming great leaders. They don’t start out great… Usually it’s someone who doesn’t try to draw too much attention to him or herself. It’s about the enterprise. It’s about the school, about the kids… They have high levels of humility and will. All their ambition and drive are channeled outward into a cause or a company or school. It truly is not about them. It’s not about how they look to the public. Not about their career. Not about the power or the money. It’s about the cause or the mission. And they have the utterly stoic will to do whatever it takes to succeed for the sake of that cause.”

Intelligent innovation – It took nine years of research for Collins and his colleagues to realize that the key to successfully weathering difficult challenges was not being innovative but finding the innovations that are empirically validated – in other words, what will actually work in the situation. “When a company or an organization is in trouble,” he says, “it has to ask a central question: Is the reason we’re in trouble because our recipe no longer works and we need to completely change it, or is it that we’ve lost discipline with a recipe that, in essence, still works? More often than not, it’s a matter of getting the discipline back. But you have to know the answer to this question for your organization. And you have to be right.”

The essence of leadership – Collins doesn’t believe there are important generational differences in leaders. Styles of communication and specific ideas may change with each new cohort, he says, but the fundamentals remain the same. In his time at West Point, Collins stumbled upon what he believes is a beautiful definition of leadership: Dwight Eisenhower said, Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done. Collins likes all three parts:

  • Great leadership is an art.

  • Leaders have to know what must be done, which is not always obvious.

  • It’s not about getting people to do the right stuff, but getting them to want to do it.

    “I believe that we need legions of Level 5 leaders in our schools,” Collins concludes. “My sense is that the up-and-coming generation of leaders has the Level 5 capacity to spark the entire education system to go from good to great. I am increasingly inspired and impressed by the young leaders I meet. Let’s get out of their way and let them lead!”

“Humility, Will, and Level 5 Leadership: An Interview with Jim Collins” by Michael Brosnan in Independent School, Spring 2015 (Vol. 74, #3, p 34-38), no e-link available