Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Innovative leadership

Over the past few weeks I've been involved in a design thinking project at school aimed at coming up with a new model for tech integration.  It was interesting to see the approach that was taken, with candidates focusing on different things - either the logistics, or the learning, or some new technology.  As a result of this process, it was interesting to read Scott McLeod's blog post today entitled 18 things that leaders of innovative schools do differently.  In this post Scott writes about the TIES conference and how at the Leadership Seminar they looked at a variety of innovative schools from around the world to see what the leaders of these schools are doing differently.  He asked - which of these are most important, which are being done well and which need more attention?  The interesting thing, something that I was really heartened to read, is that this list does not include a focus on the new technologies.  The focus is much more on things that empower students and teachers.  So to answer the question which on the list are most important, here are my thoughts:
  • Creating an atmosphere of safety and trust so that teachers can take risk with support.
  • Leaders being willing to take risks themselves.
  • Empowering student choice, building on intrinsic motivation.
  • Personalising academic pathways that take account of students' interests, skills and talents.
  • Reducing the number of things on everyone's plate by focusing on the few things that are really important - tied in to the mission and purpose of the school.
  • Time for meaningful collaboration, including protocols for making decisions.
  • Distributed leadership.
  • Not just being concerned with the "spark" of innovation, but also having the depth of knowledge to tie this to student learning.
  • Getting rid of "tall poppy" environments.
One of Scott's 18 things is in bold - he has added the emphasis showing what he feels is most important:  innovative leaders are able to help teachers translate big ideas from mission and vision statements into day-to-day instructional practice.  I like this statement a lot as well.  It makes me think of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours to become an expert (outlier), and although the notion that anyone can become an expert after a certain number of hours of practice has now been debunked, innovative leaders do need that knowledge and understanding of the day-to-day of teaching (which translates into about 10 years of teaching experience to get to the 10,000 hours).  In addition, to be that innovative leader an educator is required to be a reflective practitioner with a passion for excellence, someone with strong values, in particular integrity, and someone who demonstrates empathy.  Without these last two, in my opinion, someone may try to lead innovation, but will anyone follow?

I'm looking forward to working with Scott at ASB Un-Plugged in February.  Scott will be leading a pre-conference institute on building schools of the future.

Photo Credit: RDV Flickr via Compfight cc

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