Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

The essential qualities of effective leadership

In recent weeks I have been thinking more deeply about effective leadership to determine if my views should be revised given the recent presidential election.

First, my definition of “effective leaders“: Effective leaders achieve the organization’s goals while strengthening the organization and the relationships within it for future work.

Whether we are thinking about the President of the United States or the person who is one level above us in the hierarchy of our workplace, I believe that effective leaders:

• Create with others a shared, compelling vision of a desired future

• Generate and help spread positive emotions

• Make decisions based on sound evidence and reasoning

• Are open to being persuaded by the views of others

• Treat others with respect

• Are exemplars of how they want others to think and act

• Have integrity, particularly in telling the truth and keeping promises

• Adapt to changing circumstances while staying true to core values and principles

What would you add to or subtract from my list? 

Are all of these attributes essential, or are some so much more important than others that a leader and organization will fail without them?

Making a positive difference, alone and together

re·sil·ience\ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\ noun: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful after misfortune or disruptive change

Several terms come to mind when I think of “resilience.”

Empowered.

Optimistic.

Efficacious.

Intentional.

Proactive.

Engaged.

Influential.

All of these words apply to the human desire to affect our own destiny and to make the world a better place. In short, to make a positive difference.

Life circumstances, which we may or may not choose, contribute to our sense of resilience and also draw upon it.

Resilient people are:

optimistic and efficacious. That is, they are hopeful about the future and believe that they can make a difference.

intentional and proactive. That is, they have clear goals and realistic plans to achieve them.

engaged and influential. That is, they persist until goals are achieved, and they enlist others in concerted actions.

Taken together, these qualities explain why resilient people often find themselves in leadership roles even though they may not have actively sought them out.

Resilient leaders create resilient organizations, and the primary way they do so is by creating a sense of “collective efficacy”– a belief that the achievement of important goals requires strong teamwork.

Collective efficacy begins with a worthy, stretching goal and draws on the interpersonal support provided by a community whose members encourage, guide, and teach one another.

Collective efficacy is especially important today because it is easy to succumb to resignation in the face of complex and overwhelming world problems, like climate change, and the serious challenges to democratic institutions and civil liberties that we currently face.

Future posts will explore ways to cultivate resilience for our personal benefit and our collective good.

As always, I am interested in what you have to say today and in the future about this critically important subject.

Does God have a plan for public schools?

At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, [Betsy DeVos] singled out education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to “greater kingdom gain.” —Katherine Stewart, “Betsy DeVos and God’s Plan for Schools”

While I am not a Biblical scholar I am sure that the word “love” appears in its text more often than “free market,” vouchers,” or “charter schools.”

Although I am deeply distrustful of anyone who seems to have direct access to God’s thinking about public education, like, say Betsy DeVos, I think it likely that God would:

• Be outraged in the style of the Old Testament about the poverty in which far too many children and their families live.

• See great merit in teaching young people the skills of social and emotional intelligence, given the Biblical emphasis on love and forgiveness, although I may be going out on a religious and curricular limb here.

• Be deeply concerned about children being sent to schools whose only merit is that they satisfy the ideology of their rich and therefore politically influential patrons.

If God has a political ideology, it probably is “love thy neighbor.”

To verify the accuracy of what I just wrote, I had a brief and long overdue conversation with God about all of this, and although His voice was soft and sometimes indistinct, I am confident I heard Him (or maybe Her) say that Betsy DeVos should not be confirmed as United States Secretary of Education.

You can’t boss me…

“[T]he latest research shows that terminally ill patients who seek aid in dying aren’t primarily concerned about pain. Those who have actually used these laws have been far more concerned about controlling the way they exit the world than about controlling pain… “It’s almost never about pain,” said Lonny Shavelson, a Berkeley, Calif., physician who specializes in the care of the terminally ill and who began writing prescriptions for lethal doses of medication in June, when California’s law took effect. “It’s about dignity and control.”” – Washington Post

The Washington Post article reminded me of a conversation I had with an elderly woman about the dissatisfaction she felt with her diminished life in a long-term care facility. She knew she would be happy, she said, if she could only have an apartment of her own.

I pointed out her children’s concerns about her safety, and she said she would rather die sooner living in an apartment than live longer in her current residence.

Most of us crave autonomy and respect, and we can tolerate many difficulties when those qualities are present.

We want to feel in control of our lives, to make decisions large and small whose sum total makes up the substance of our days.

I have worked at jobs where all the important decisions were made for me. My circle of influence was very small, and I often found myself feeling frustrated and unhappy.

A child says, “You are not my boss.” A dissatisfied worker says, “Trust my ability to make more decisions about my work.” An elderly woman says, “I would rather die than not be able to do the simple tasks of life that give me purpose and responsibility.”

The desire for self-determination is deeply embedded in the human psyche. People have been willing to give up their lives on its behalf.

What are the implications for leaders and parents of this universal desire for self-determination?

It means that we do everything in our power to give others as much decision-making authority and responsibility as possible and provide the learning and other supports required to enable success.

Do you agree: Is the desire for self-determination universal, and what can we do to meaningfully support individuals of all ages in its realization?

Bullies …

Dennis

If not now, when? If not you, who?” ―Hillel the Elder

Bullies come in all sizes and exist in all occupations. There are playground bullies, cyber bullies, bullies in the workplace, and even bullies who run for president.

Bullies may be famous and powerful, or they may be virtually unknown except to those they bully.

When I was young an adult told me that the best way to deal with bullies was to stand up to them.

Such a stand against bullying, of course, requires courage.

One or more people standing up to him or her—one-to-one or in group settings—is often all that’s required to end the bullying or at least blunt its effects.

Given that courage doesn’t mean acting in the absence of fear, but rather acting in spite of it, the presence of fear is not a sufficient reason to allow bullies to destroy what others have created or want to create.

stop-bull

Sometimes standing up to bullies is no more complicated than that – it literally involves standing and looking the bully in the eye because deep down many bullies are very afraid.

One of my favorite moments in the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was when moderator Lester Holt asked Trump to explain to Clinton why she didn’t have “a presidential look,” given his public statements on that subject. Trump, not surprisingly, tried to change the subject.

At other times standing up to bullies may require clarifying one’s principles and perhaps even rehearsing a confrontation with a trusted colleague or friend.

In 1954 Joseph Welch’s, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” was a turning point in the history of McCarthyism.

Many of us have one or more bullies in our lives.

Sometimes it is no more complicated than thinking deeply about your response to this question: If not now, when? If not you, who?

Extending invitations

Dennis

I once heard a minister tell a story about being new to a congregation and noticing an elderly man who attended services each week, faithfully sitting front and center.

Upon learning that the man was not a member of the church the minister sought him out after a service to inquire about why he had never joined. “No one ever asked me,” the man responded.

Invitations can be very powerful.

While they don’t ensure acceptance, more often than not people are willing to step up to greater involvement when they are encouraged to do so.

At least that was true in my career as I was invited to take on new, more challenging responsibilities or encouraged to apply for positions that felt far beyond my reach.

An invitation, of course, is only the first step. Ensuring the success of those we promote often requires mentoring, coaching, and other carefully-considered developmental experiences.

But it all begins with an invitation.

In what ways have invitations enriched your life or career, and how have you sought to ensure the success of those you have invited to take on new challenges?

No place for hatred…

Dennis

Good teachers have always created inclusive classrooms.

Their work is made more difficult, though, by bigoted and demagogic political leaders who speak to this nation’s fears and arouse hatred.

While I have been pleased to see so many politicians from across the political spectrum rebuke Donald Trump for his divisive and hateful views, it may be too little and too late.

Even now Trump continues to be the Republican front runner, and I am deeply concerned about the damage he is likely to do here and abroad before he is done.

In such times the work of good teachers and administrators in building inclusive classrooms and schools is more important than ever.


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