The idea behind this concept is that it's important to get the right people onto the bus and the wrong people off the bus and then decide where to drive it. Most school leaders do this the other way round - they decide where it's going to go first, and also, of course, for various reasons, in international schools it's often not very easy to simply get rid of teachers and replace them with new ones, especially in some schools that are in not so desirable locations. I certainly do agree that if you start first with the who, and make sure that these are all dynamic and adaptable people, that you can more easily change direction to adapt to a changing world. However I would say that the success of this depends entirely on having a Level 5 Leader. Reflecting now, I think my previous experience with this concept was simply the result of having a Level 4 Leader making these decisions about the who, and as a result the wrong people were being kept on the bus. Level 5 Leaders are those who are driven but at the same time humble, as opposed to Level 4 Leaders who are egocentric and like having "plastic people" around who make them feel good and simply submit to dictates. Jim Collins writes: "If you have the wrong people, it doesn't matter whether you discover the right direction, you still won't have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant." Great people with a Level 4 leader will also get nowhere.
One of the things I've come to see is that great leaders build other leaders, and I think this is the key difference between ASB and some other places where I've worked where the leadership didn't want strong people around them - a situation described as the "weak generals, strong lieutenants" model where generals are keep weak and the lieutenants stick around for lengthy periods. This is totally the opposite of what happens in great schools where the leadership team is a "strong team of equal partners" some of whom move on to other great opportunities and themselves become leaders of great schools.
Another interesting concept I thought about this week is the model of "a genius with a thousand helpers", which is exactly what a Level 4 Leader is. They don't build great teams because they don't need/want one, they simply want people to help implement their own ideas! So this is what the difference looks like:
Level 5 Leader + Management Team -> gets the right people onto the bus and builds a great team -> then decides what is the best path to greatness
Level 4 Leader ("Genius") -> sets a vision of where to go and develops a road map -> then enlists a crew of "a thousand helpers" to make the vision happen.
I was interested (and pleased) to discover that there is no pattern linking compensation with moving from good to great. The right people are building excellence for its own sake, they are doing the right things regardless of the compensation/incentive system. The idea isn't to pay people more to do a good job, but to provide the environment where great people will thrive. From personal experience this is certainly true. I've moved from Switzerland, a country where salaries and quality of living were very high, to India where living can at times be quite difficult, yet the school environment is amazing. Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time will know which place is the one where I've been able to thrive. Jim Collins writes that good to great companies place a greater weight on character attributes than on educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge or work experience. I think that is certainly something to aspire to.
As I was away last week I will need to catch up with what our next discussion topic will be. In any case my next post about our Leadership PLC will be after the Diwali holiday.