Leading for Results Quotation: Gain clarity by developing “teachable points of view”

“I need to become a well-educated person, as opposed to a well-trained person. This mean reflecting upon and deepening my own ideas, and giving greater value to my own  thinking. . . . We each have our own theories and models about the world and what it means to be human. We need to deepen our understanding of what we believe.” —Peter Block (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Leaders increase their influence when they express their ideas in simple, accessible language and share those ideas with others in the spirit of openness to learning and mutual influence. The result is a shared understanding of important ideas and practice throughout the school community, the development of leadership in others, and strengthened relationships.

My thinking in this area was influenced by Noel Tichy’s book, The Cycle of Leadership: How Great Leaders Teach Their Companies to Win. Tichy recommends that leaders create “teaching organizations” formed around Virtuous Teaching Cycles in which “. . . a leader commits to teaching, creates the conditions for being taught him or herself, and helps the students have the self confidence to engage and teach as well.”

Leaders begin Virtuous Teaching Cycles, Tichy says, when they craft a “teachable point of view,” which is “. . . a cohesive set of ideas and concepts that a person is able to articulate clearly to others.” A TPOV reveals clarity of thought regarding ideas and values and is a tool that enables leaders to communicate those ideas and values to others, Tichy says.

Some possible topics for leaders’ TPOVs include their aspirations for students, the nature of human learning and the type of teaching that promotes it, the meaning and value of professional learning communities, how assessment can contribute to student learning, and the role of parents and other community members in improving teaching and learning. (“Do PLCs Enable Students to Act Irresponsibly . . .?” is an example of carefully-considered and well-expressed point of view on a topic of relevance to many school leaders. Leaders interested in formulating a succinct, coherent point of view on international comparisons of education will find intellectual stimulation in “Reaching the Finnish Line.”)

“The very act of creating a Teachable Point of View makes people better leaders . . .,” Tichy writes. “[L]eaders come to understand their underlying assumptions about themselves, their organization and business in general. When implicit knowledge becomes explicit, it can then be questioned, refined and honed, which benefits both the leaders and the organizations.”

But developing a Teachable Point of View “requires first doing the intellectual work of figuring out what our point of view is, and then the creative work of putting it into a form that makes it accessible and interesting to others,” Tichy observes. He strongly recommends writing as a tool to achieve clarity. “The process of articulating one’s Teachable Point of View is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing, iterative and interactive process, ” Tichy writes.

Strengthen your leadership practice by . . .

• describing a time when you were clear about your views on a particular educational issue and how your clarity affected the thinking and actions of others,

• identifying a topic of importance to you and/or your school community and setting aside time to clarify your views on this subject in writing, perhaps redrafting your view several times to gain clarity.

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