I am preparing for two conferences in the fall that deal with leadership and change management as we recognize the importance of developing our innovation practices at school. In putting together a list of references, readings, and active learning opportunities for these conferences, I was happy to read a great piece by Mike Myatt today on the Innovation Excellence site. His three essentials of change for every leader should resonate with principals, heads, superintendents, and other administrators who embrace their roles as important change agents for their organization.
Mike advises that real leaders do not push change on their organization, they pull it forward. So much of school leadership in the past, and still today, is about keeping the trains running on time, but that is just no longer a good job description. Mike says “the present is nothing more than a platform for envisioning of, and positioning for, the future”. As leaders, it is our job to ensure that we set a vision for the organization, and a vision without the demands of change results in stasis, a death knell for knowledge based industries of any stripe. A good leader cannot demand organizational change without modeling the personal characteristics and daily practices that it entails for her or his employees. Pull your organization by setting the example.
Second, Mike reminds us that change is first a mindset, not a process. Without developing the cultural DNA, the attitude to look for opportunities to improve our teaching and administrative functions, the willingness to engage colleagues on a regular basis as symbiotic parts of a learning community, the specific pathways of effective innovation will not work. Leaders have to learn and use the proven tools of innovation, but first they have to develop that broader cultural mindset which will provide fertile ground for real, value-rich innovation.
I will offer one piece of simple, concrete, practical advice to put these two steps into play right now, to get yourself and your employees into this adaptive mindset:
Actively review and participate in the blogosphere and demand that your employees do the same. You/they can spend as little as 15 minutes a day quickly scanning a library of direct feeds, maybe making a comment or two a week, or following a link that piques your interest. We are all learners, every bit as much as are our students. If we want to model and lead change, we have to get in the game where it is being played, and very bright people are sharing and exchanging thoughts every day on blogs. Don’t wait to read that one famous author when you have time to read a whole book; you will miss too much. This is not how things worked when we adults were young, but it is how the world works now. You will be amazed how quickly your teachers and leadership teams will develop that cultural affinity for collective innovation that is critical to change.