Michael Fullan writes a lot about change and leadership and in his book Change Leader the first chapter is devoted to this idea - that practice drives theory. He writes that while theory can be useful in moving forward, it is the day to day practices of a leader that provides learning and so becomes the most powerful tool for change. One thing he recommends is to examine the successful practices of others, to try out these ideas for yourself and then to draw conclusions about what you have learned. It is reflective practice that leads to discovery about what works.
I really like the term "deliberate practice". Fullan explains that most of us are not born with talent but that we can develop it deliberately through practice and extensive feedback. He writes "practice is the driver of improvement."
There are a lot of overlaps with Michael Fullan's work and that of Jim Collins. Collins refers to Level 5 Leaders as having an unwavering resolve to do what needs to be done, Fullan calls this "resolute leadership" - focusing on a small number of key priorities and staying the course. However this is not enough as there are numerous examples of leaders who have stuck to a particular course regardless of the human dynamics. Fullan argues that you also need to have "impressive empathy". There needs to be ownership of change on the part of the people who work in schools, and where there are deep divisions purpose and empathy must be combined to bring about true and lasting change.
Fullan argues that you can learn to become a resolute leader, but at the same time you must develop empathy as you also need to believe that your teachers have the ability to grow and learn over time through practice. In fact it is only empathy that allows the resoluteness of leaders to reach out and motivate people.
In all the books I'm reading, motivation is coming up as important, over and over again. As I think more about leadership and change I feel I need to delve down more into what motivates people to want to change. More thoughts about this coming soon.