All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Leaders Managing Schools is a Waste of Resources

The title for this post may seem a little abrasive or off-putting, but this stream of thought came to me through the various processes:

·         sitting in multiple meetings concerning the implementation of our new evaluation system,
·         considering the viability of DDMs as valid measures of student achievement,
·         reflecting on the sheer enormity of the task being required of both educators and administrators, and
·         realizing that there is no other job -anywhere- that requires employees to not only be evaluated on 33 separate indicators, but also be responsible for gathering them.

That is when it became clearer.  How can we expect education to move forward when we are telling and training our leadership to spend most of their time managing the current situation?  Education in general takes vision, effort, and time to change.  To use one of the newer words…grit.  How is that fostered by increasing restrictive regulations and demands on time?

Depending on your belief about the creation of leaders, it may be argued that they are one of the most finite resources in public education.  Unfortunately, in an effort to quantify the qualitative process of education; allocate dwindling funds; and turn education over to the political process, this resource is being at best underdeveloped and at worst squandered. 

How so you ask?  Make the comparison between leaders and managers and it becomes clear.

Whether you subscribe to Daniel Pink’s concept of “nature times nurture” or Susan Heathfield’s explanation that “the combination of skills, personality, and ambition essential to leadership are difficult to develop or exhibit,” it is clear that leaders are either born, emerge through a critical event, or they choose to develop into a leader through a combination of training, experience and determination.  The best case scenario is the focused acceptance and application of all three.

Managers on the other hand possess a skill set that while powerful, has a different focus and is easier to master.  They are focused on working in the present with infrequent change accomplished by extensive planning, solving problems through conflict management, and making quick decisions.  Successful managers also concentrate on building relationships by increasing their “people skills.”  Warren Bennis explained this further by saying; “Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.”

I would be remiss not to mention that there are some areas of overlap between the two terms.  While all leaders need a set of managerial skills to oversee the smooth operation of a classroom, school, or district; managers (by definition) lack the skill set to move a class, school, or district forward.

Now think about;
·         21st Century Skills
·         Common Core
·         College and Career Readiness Skills
·         New evaluation system
·         Literacy initiatives
·         New Science standards

That list contains nothing but future endeavors that need to be implemented through a keen understanding of and appreciation for student, teacher, and community needs.  It is a road fraught with potential pitfalls if it is not navigated by people who accept and respond to change based on their context.  Unfortunately, State and federal mandates are attempting to decontextualize the individual, locally impacted environment education has become.  It is because of this that we need positive pro-active individuals capable of moving districts and education forward in a continuous changing environment.

In short, while we need individuals capable of managing the paperwork tied to compliance; we are more in need of people capable of getting others to follow them or else there will be less people to keep paperwork on as the most valuable members (teachers) are either pushed out of or dissuaded from even entering this once noble profession.

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