Leading for Results Quotation: Cultivate your “voice” through writing

I thought of how often as a writer I had made clear to myself some subject I had previously known nothing about by just putting one sentence after another—by reasoning my way in sequential steps to its meaning. I thought of how often the act of writing even the simplest document—a letter for instance—has clarified my half-formed ideas. Writing and thinking and learning were the same process. —William Zinsser (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Writing to learn is a powerful tool that enables leaders to cultivate their own understanding of important values, ideas, and practices so that they can more effectively engage the school community in professional learning and consensus building regarding important purposes and methods.

In my teaching I regularly ask my “students”—who are generally experienced school and system leaders—to write one or more paragraphs expressing their views on whatever subject we are studying. I explain that I believe that writing is a potent and underused learning tool that is the hallmark of reflective and effective leadership because it provides a space and method for leaders to give shape to their ideas and assess their clarity as they literally lead themselves into a deeper understanding of important subjects.

And while these leaders usually acknowledge the importance of such reflection, they point out that they seldom do extended writing and revision as part of their own learning or as a daily leadership practice. Full schedules, they tell me, make it difficult to find time to slow down and think deeply about their work.

In response, I point out that in times of information overload and fragmented school reform efforts, writing can help leaders separate the essential from the irrelevant so that they can become more proactive. I explain that because writing is frozen thought, it enables them to examine and improve the precision and logical consistency of their own thinking.

Leading for Results “Six-Word Leadership Tool”:

Write to learn and to communicate.

Strengthen your leadership practice by . . .

carving out just a few minutes each day (even 10 minutes can be helpful) to clarify your thinking by writing:

• about the values that define you as a human being and as educator so that you can offer your views to stimulate dialogue regarding the critical moral dimensions of the school community’s work;

• to shape and add precision and nuance to your ideas, particularly those that guide the key innovations of your work

• to clarify your point of view regarding important decisions you are facing; and

• to access your own inner sources of knowing and wisdom about your life and work.

developing a “six-word leadership tool” to summarize your learning or to express an action you will take as a result of this week’s posts. Please add your tool to the comment section of this blog and share it with one or more colleagues “back home.”

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