“There’s an ego looking for a place to inflate,” my table mate at a Washington, DC meeting of high-level officials whispered to me as a prominent member of the education establishment entered the room, a prophecy that unfortunately soon proved itself to be true.
I was reminded of that meeting when Jean, a patient I was visiting in my role as a hospice volunteer, shared with me a simple but profound poem she had recently written:
“The long, dark corridor of life narrows at the end./ And those whose ego grew too tall will have to learn to bend.”
While Jean was describing the “long, dark corridor” of her own life as it narrowed in her 90s, her warning regarding egos that grow too tall without learning to bend also obviously applies to education leaders.
Signs that a leader’s ego has grown too tall include:
• Enjoying hearing himself or herself talk, usually at great length, rather than listening to others.
• Believing that he or she generally knows more than others, including being the only one with the wisdom to understand problems and how to solve them.
Ways in which leaders can learn to bend:
• Maintaining a “learner’s mind.” Leaders with such mindsets assume that they may not know what they don’t know.
• Recognizing that the perspectives of others are essential in identifying and solving problems.
That means that they seek first to understand by spending far more time listening than speaking.
• Remembering that while leaders have unique roles and responsibilities, those who are successful cultivate a community of equals rather than one of privilege and hierarchy.
What have I missed?