Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do schools need leaders or builders?

  1. I've been reading a post in the Harvard Business Review entitled The Builders' Manifesto. In the past I've questioned why some international school are just so good when others, seemingly very similar, miss out on being really excellent. My conclusion was always that it was to do with the administration, and so I often thought about what schools needed in their administrators: good managers or good leaders? I have worked with both good managers and good leaders, but it's true to say I've almost never come across an administrator that was both a good manager AND a good leader. However I've never really thought of it in terms of builders before. Umair Haque argues that instead of leadership, organisations need constructivism and he goes on to give several examples of what he sees as the difference in the approaches:
  • The boss drives group members; the leader coaches them. The Builder learns from them.
  • The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will. The Builder depends on good.
  • The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm. The Builder is inspired — by changing the world.
  • The boss says "I"; the leader says "we". The Builder says "all" — people, communities, and society.
  • The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace. The Builder sees the outcome.
  • The boss says, "Get there on time;" the leader gets there ahead of time. The Builder makes sure "getting there" matters.
  • The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown. The Builder prevents the breakdown.
  • The boss knows how; the leader shows how. The Builder shows why.
  • The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes work a game. The Builder organizes love, not work.
  • The boss says, "Go;" the leader says, "Let's go." The Builder says: "come."
Having read this article, I also started thinking about a book I read 6 months ago by Tom Kelley. Tom was one of the speakers at the Apple Leadership Summit in Hong Kong in April, and he gave away copies of his book The Ten Faces of Innovation to all those at the summit. Tom's point is that organisations needs lots of different sorts of people to be successes. Although he said at the summit that if he was to write the book again he would probably only focus on 7 different roles, the actual roles listed in the book are: anthropologist, experimenter, cross-pollinator, hurdler, collaborator, director, experience architect, set designer, storyteller and caregiver. While reading the book I found myself questioning my role in schools and decided I was probably a cross-pollinator.

The Cross-Pollinator draws associations and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts to break new ground. Armed with a wide set of interests, an avid curiosity, and an aptitude for learning and teaching, the Cross-Pollinator brings in big ideas from the outside world to enliven their organization. People in this role can often be identified by their open mindedness, diligent note-taking, tendency to think in metaphors, and ability to reap inspiration from constraints.

At a time when we are searching for a new Head of Secondary at my current school I have to ask myself what does the school really need? Perhaps what it really needs is a builder.

Photo Credits: Builder by Jespis, Monarch Butterfly by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

1 comment:

  1. I need to find a copy of The Ten Faces of Innovation to read, it sounds like a great book. I, too, am a Cross Polinator. I would be interested to see a model of a school who has a builder and the ten innovators.