A reflection about holding ourselves accountable as leaders and agents of change

This week, in thinking about Fullan’s five components of leadership, I was reflecting on leaders that I have worked with or observed in work environments.  Change and transition at work is an interesting time because it challenges everyone to adjust their roles and perspectives and adapt to a new and hopefully improved way of doing things.  Working in non-profit organizations has taught me that change and transition is a not only a regular occurrence but one that is necessary for the organization to thrive and be successful in achieving its mission and vision.  In my experience, sometimes these five components were apparent or transparent and sometimes I would only be able to observe or be aware of several of them.  Sometimes in their role as leaders, people tend to focus on managing the change process as opposed to gaining deeper understanding of it; leaders can also make the mistake of attempting to control the information flow (knowledge creation and sharing), thinking that it will allow others to embrace the change much easier.  I also think it can be challenging for a team of leaders to implement change if they all approach these five components in their own way.  

Any time that we take on a particular perspective, there is potential for blinders to exist because we are choosing a vantage point from which to view the change process.  While this is necessary in leadership, that can be confusing for stakeholders and unintentionally contribute to setbacks and barriers to successful adoption of change.  Building relationships and consensus is an important skill for leaders but so is inviting different perspectives to inform the process, without completing derailing progress.  

In our twitter chat this week (https://storify.com/tchrcoffeedrnkr/week-7-twitter-conversation-etlead), our host Chris (@tchrcoffeedrnkr) ended with the question: “You’re  given the keys to the castle.  What‘s the first change you’d implement?”  Some of our responses were:

“I would spend a year in it before I would start making it my own.”

“Implementing community building between staff and students! Random days or weeks with team building activities and fun!”

“I would get an integrated IT system, and outsource Blackboard”

“Let education come from interest instead of requirements”

“I would go to the teachers to get input.”

“I’d get rid of the buildings & let everyone work from home. And rent out that fancy driveway we built.”

“Not being required to use only certain programs.”

From our various roles and responsibilities, we each bring a different voice and perspective to the same question.  Schools would definitely benefit from looking within for valuable perspectives that can bring about positive change and strengthen relationships among teachers and staff.  I also walked away this week with the impression that practicing these five components of leading through change in your personal life will most certainly help to lead the change process in the professional arena.

Some inspiration also came from blogging by my peers this week.  Sam (@sdutton2015) shared a great example about leading through change by Linda Cliatt-Wayman at Strawberry Mansion High School.  I commented that “failure” in implementing change should help us re-examine our process and understand what specific factors prevented us from being successful.  By evaluating how we carried out each of the five components, we can learn understand the nuances of the change process and the perspectives of the people involved.  We also can model for students (and others) that taking risks and iterations are an integral part of any change process that allow us to get closer to achieving our moral purpose.

Matt (@stimeeducator) blogged about the success rate of implementing change in schools and shared some of the challenges at his school district.  He wrote that sometimes we get a “predispositioned” view or bad taste in our mouth from failing to implement positive change and that can prevent us from embracing new ideas with an open mind.  I added that it can be disheartening when new ideas or changes are not being evaluated on their own merit but are viewed through the lens of a “bad track record of institutional change.”  In those cases, I believe everyone involved would benefit from starting over with a new process that involves multiple perspectives from stakeholders to bring in new ideas and change that furthers the organization or school’s moral purpose.  The change process might need to slow down considerably as everyone gains their footing and begins to get comfortable with this new way of doing things and people begin to trust that this new process can bring positive change.  These five components of leadership could also be used as a tool to evaluate how well leaders are implementing a positive change process and whether there is an area that needs more improvement.

Cherie (@cherbabes) reminded us that teachers are not often eager to change.  I shared my belief that teachers have a valuable role in impacting how students create, share, and apply knowledge.  An unwillingness to embrace change  and try new tools, methods, and ideas is contradictory to what we ask students to do everyday in our classrooms.  It is our professional responsibility as educators to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we ask of our students; by reflecting on our moral purpose we can examine whether we are keeping that bar at the level that our students deserve.

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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