2 I n d e p e n d e n t S c h o o l
leadership for change
n a world rapidly undergoing
change, organizational leaders
S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 3
energy, food, healthcare, and services
— all in a time of tumultuous financial
markets. Fund-raisi...
4 I n d e p e n d e n t S c h o o l
leadership for change
professor Robert Quinn outlines the
normal and fundamental stat...
S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 5
way leaders transform schools.
Moving forward, the strongest lead-
ers will utilize a blend of the...
of 4

NAIS Independent School Spring 2009 - Transform Leader

Published on: Mar 3, 2016

Transcripts - NAIS Independent School Spring 2009 - Transform Leader

  • 1. 2 I n d e p e n d e n t S c h o o l leadership for change I n a world rapidly undergoing change, organizational leaders need to be forces for, on the one hand, calm and optimism, and, on the other hand, vision and collabo- ration. In other words, they are increas- ingly required to capitalize on the cur- rent cultural transformations in ways that inspire all constituents within the organization to work together toward new goals, while helping everyone feel secure in the knowledge that this new way is, indeed, the best way. Needless to say, this is challenging work, especially in school communi- ties that have been humming along doing business pretty much as usual for decades. But it’s absolutely neces- sary in today’s climate. As in the busi- ness community, independent schools that expect to stick around for the long run need to evolve their educational programs and their approach to lead- ership in order to become more adept at responding to the seismic cultural shifts in the world today. In the pro- cess, 21st-century school leaders will have to reach into many different con- stituent groups not only to seek input, but also to align, guide, inspire, and direct needed change in an ongoing effort to improve and sustain indepen- dent schools. This need for change became clear to me about 18 months ago, when I was introduced to Karl Fisch’s pre- sentation “Did You Know?/Shift Hap- pens” based on the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Fried- man, educator Ian Jukes, and others. In the presentation, Fisch, a Colorado school administrator, highlights the world our students will soon enter — a world in which the top 10 in-demand jobs weren’t even in existence until recently, and in which it is predicted that school graduates will likely hold between 10 and 14 different jobs by the time they’re 38. He also raises our awareness of the new global distribu- tion of human talent and the shear ex- plosion of readily available information to all nations. In particular, he points out that the top students in both China and India outnumber all students in North America; the number-one Eng- lish-speaking country in the world will soon be China; one week of the New York Times contains more information than the average 18th-century citizen was exposed to in a lifetime; and, in one year, we generate more informa- tion worldwide than was generated in the previous 5,000 years (see http:// thefischbowl.blogspot.com). Yes, the shift is happening before our eyes. Over the course of the next decade, schools will likely see a vastly different student (and parent) popula- tion, leading to, among other things, increased tension around diversity and questions of cultural inclusion in school curricula and traditions. Mov- ing forward, curricula will need to focus on competencies and skills such as creativity, adaptability, collabora- tion, resiliency, and global awareness. Classes will move beyond specific knowledge, instead focusing on oral and written communication, critical thinking, problem solving and, most importantly, the cultivation of ongoing, life-long learning. When it comes to our faculties and administrations, we are already begin- ning to see another shift with an un- precedented number of baby boomers retiring. In today’s workplace, in fact, it is not uncommon to see four genera- tions — traditionalist, baby boomers, Xers, and Ys — all working as mem- bers of an organization. Therefore, the area of talent management — attract- ing and retaining quality people with a greater diversity of skills — is rapidly becoming a top priority. In addition to attracting such talent, many school leaders also need to plan for their own succession — given that nearly 60 per- cent of our current school leaders are expected to leave the profession over the next five-to-seven years. Of course, in these difficult finan- cial times, money matters greatly, too. Over the last four-to-five years, we have seen both a slowing of tuition increases (some schools have even held tuition steady) and an effort to increase faculty compensation, while also addressing other escalating ex- penses, such as the increasing costs of Transformational Leadership Leading Schools in a Time of Global Cultural Shifts By Jerry La r son from Independent School magazine, Spring 2009
  • 2. S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 3 energy, food, healthcare, and services — all in a time of tumultuous financial markets. Fund-raising has always mat- tered, but it has taken on a new, more vital, role as the facilities “arms race” has slowed and financial sustainability has moved to the forefront. What all this means for indepen- dent schools, most of whom are tuition dependent, is that they need to begin thinking and acting differently than they did in past decades. Whether it is through this magazine, the Harvard Education Letter, the Trustee’s Letter, or the ubiquitous YouTube and social networking websites, schools are be- ing challenged to step up and meet head-on the constantly changing world we live in. The 21st–Century Challenge Over the last 100 years, broadly speak- ing, education in the United States has remained relatively static. While technology has become commonplace in schools, our methodology has gone largely unchanged. With some excep- tions, the majority of schools continue to be organized around an industrial model: leaders act in a hierarchical framework — a framework that is also transferred to the classroom where teachers by and large expect compli- ance from their students. One might argue that we should have changed this model years ago —  as some schools have done — but, for schools that haven’t altered their approach, now is certainly the time to move beyond this transactional model to one more fundamentally structured around the concept of being a true learning organization —  that is, an organization in which all constituents focus on the ongoing improvement of the institution. Fortunately, we have some good models out there. In the past few years, for instance, I have seen a movement in our corporations, schools, and com- munities toward a greater sense of inclusion and transparency. While it may cause some tension with boards, school leaders, parents, and, in some cases, students, it is also proving to be the right direction for schools — given the increasing diversity in the nation and the growing need for schools to prepare students for a more intercon- nected world. At the same time, as it becomes more difficult to secure re- sources, more organizations and their constituents have begun to embrace the concepts of collaboration and part- nerships. For a number of years now, the National Association of Indepen- dent Schools (NAIS) has encouraged organizational change through the development of partnerships and in- novative, value-added programming in order for schools to both thrive and sustain their independence. Sustaining independence through partnerships and shared programs may seem ironic, but it is nevertheless true. As munici- palities look for new revenue streams these days, they are more inclined to challenge independent schools’ tax- exempt status if they believe that the schools offer little value to the towns. Good partnerships, among other things, highlight the value of schools, making it clear that they are working for the greater good. Of course, leading schools through these and other transitions requires ef- fective leadership — leadership that is truly transformational. The Transformational Leader When it comes to organizational excellence, management consultant Jim Collins and his research group underscore the importance of a certain kind of leadership as a key component of how 11 out of the 1,473 companies the group studied made the leap from “good to great.” Additional research indicates that such leadership also turns out to be a key component in social sector success. In particular, Col- lins and his team placed considerable emphasis on the concept of a “Level 5” executive, one who builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. Collins extols these leaders’ character- istics, pointing out that, in contrast to larger-than-life CEOs, Level 5 leaders act with quiet, calm determination, relying principally on inspired stan- dards, not charisma, to motivate. My work with trustees and school communities has shown me that “charisma and presence” are often considered highly desired qualities in school leaders, especially in the head of school. But Collins ascribes these characteristics only to a Level 4 leader, an effective leader, not a truly great leader. Charisma and inspiration are valuable assets, but great schools today need executives who are more than effective; they need Level 5 plus lead- ers, or what Pulitzer Prize-winning theorist and presidential biographer James McGregor Burns identified in his award-winning book Leadership as transformational leaders. Classic transactional leaders focus mostly on rewards and punishment, establishing a corrective model for addressing the actions of others. They want to keep the organizational machinery running as it always has, keep everyone on task. By contrast, transformational leaders seek to de- velop others by working to understand intrinsic motivation and focusing on a long-term perspective. They may in- spire through charisma and vision, but they also respond to others’ needs by aligning individual objectives, goals, and values with those of the organiza- tion. They motivate individuals to seek higher levels of performance in the name of the school’s missions and, thus, achieve satisfaction and often exceed expectations. In Transformational Leadership, Bernard Bass, SUNY Binghamton professor and founding editor of the Leadership Quarterly Journal, and Ronald Riggio, Claremont McKenna College professor of leadership and or- ganizational psychology, demonstrate the organizational benefits of this leadership style. Positive transforma- tional leadership combines morals and virtue with a desire to contribute to a collective intent toward real, positive social change. (Two clear examples in independent schools are programs such as Summerbridge, which prepares underserved minority students for secondary and post-secondary schools, and a well-developed service-learning program that serves the needs of the greater school community.) In his work on developing leadership capac- ity, University of Michigan business
  • 3. 4 I n d e p e n d e n t S c h o o l leadership for change professor Robert Quinn outlines the normal and fundamental states of leadership, which correspond to trans- actional and transformational leader- ship. In particular, Quinn discusses how, during times of crisis, leaders act in a fundamental way that is au- thentic, open, and transformative. It is the sense of urgency that forces the leader to move beyond their “normal” or transactional state to act in ways that produce results. During these urgent times, a leader who has entered the “fundamental” state of being will be primarily other-focused; openly seek- ing real feedback and input, reaching greater levels of awareness, compe- tence, and vision. Individuals who are in the fundamental state of leadership are internally directed, examining their behavior and values rather than being concerned about what others think. They focus on the results that need to be created, and then tirelessly pursue those results. During trying times, great leaders and great organizations are open to the possibilities of “doing” in a new or different way that brings about an increased level of success — regardless of what worked in the past. Working with school leaders and their teams, I have begun cultivating this fundamental state of transfor- mational leadership by encouraging leaders to refocus on their respective school’s mission, philosophy, and core values —  and how this process can help clarify the vision of what the school can and should be in the fu- ture, in light of the changing cultural landscape. In many communities, for instance, heads and their leadership teams are focusing not only on defin- ing processes and expected outcomes for individual employees, but also on building good relations to create a pos- itive school climate and culture within the school and valuable community connections outside the school. One head I know, for example, is actively engaged in civic groups, including programs on diversity and inclusion as well as general community leader- ship. This individual is also encourag- ing others in the school to reach out to community groups. The goal is to spotlight the public purpose of this independent school to the broader community, while also bringing the community into the school for what, if done right, will be a symbiotic re- lationship that benefits everyone and builds a stronger foundation for future understanding. Research conducted by the Hay Group, global management consul- tants, has found that leadership style can explain between 50 and 70 percent of the variance in organizational cli- mate, which, in turn, explains up to 30 percent of the variance in the bottom line. This insight into organizational leadership is supported in Primal Lead- ership, in which Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, of the Emotional In- telligence Consortium, and University of Pennsylvania education professor Anne McKee discuss the contagious nature of a leader’s Emotional Intelli- gence Quotient (EQ). In order to effect authentic transformational leadership, a “positive or strong” EQ is a founda- tional component. Anecdotally, in the schools with which I work, I have seen how a school leader can influence either a positive or negative culture. The emotional intel- ligence competencies of the leader play a significant role in strengthening, shaping, and maintaining a vibrant school climate that is open to transfor- mational change. But how does one become a trans- formational leader with a high EQ? Re- uven Bar-On, University of Texas psy- chologist, identifies five composites of EQ: intrapersonal (self-awareness and self expression); interpersonal (social awareness and relationships); stress management (emotional management and regulation); adaptability (change management); and general mood (self motivation, optimism, and happiness). Like Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, Bar-On believes that these competen- cies are not fixed. Rather, they can be enhanced through deliberate practice, an idea that is reinforced by research in neuroscience. And this is good news, as we look, on the one hand, to develop our own leadership skills and, on the other hand, to prepare our stu- dents to become the next generation of transformational leaders. Change, Resistance, Renewal As schools begin to look more closely at the relationship of their practices to the broader community (both lo- cal and global), it is important to ac- knowledge the difficulties involved in change management. Neuroscience research has demonstrated that our brain’s primary function is to ensure survival; any change in what has been learned and repeatedly acted upon, therefore, is perceived, most often sub- consciously, as a survival threat. This may lead to a stress response, often exhibited in the form of resistance. More often than not, the school leader is seen as the change catalyst, or even “the issue,” and resisted. A transforma- tional leader needs to identify this all- too-common response to change and work to minimize the perception of threat by reframing the new vision for the school as an opportunity for greatly improving the community through professional development, innovation, and leading-edge programming. In particular, I frequently coun- sel that leaders frame change in the language of renewal, applying an organizational cycle developed by the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, California. This cycle, based on Fredric Hudson’s Adult Development Cycle of Renewal, has four phases: fully aligned, out of synch, repurposing; and explor- ing. Within each phase, individuals and organizations may have “chapters” or developmental periods. From time to time there are down periods, during which a mini-transition reinvigorates an existing chapter or explores a new one. Many independent schools are already in a period of reflection and repurposing, addressing questions related to financial affordability (access and sustainability); program devel- opment (to prepare students for the uncertain world they will enter); and leadership and faculty recruiting (de- velopment and retention for program- matic sustainability). It appears that independent schools are also entering a period of significant transition that will require a fundamental shift in the
  • 4. S p r i n g 2 0 0 9 5 way leaders transform schools. Moving forward, the strongest lead- ers will utilize a blend of the transac- tional leadership, through clarifying roles and responsibilities, and the transformational leadership, with a strong emphasis on being visionary and on developing others. Communi- cation in our transformative organiza- tions will comprise an ongoing, open dialogue in which creative conflict and differing points of view are encouraged and explored with integrity that leads to principled decision-making. Transformational leadership pro- vides an effective approach to leading our schools in today’s complex global community. Faculty, students, parents, alumni, and community members seek an inspirational leader to provide guidance, but they also seek to be chal- lenged, developed, empowered, and valued. As independent schools evolve, the authentic transformative leader, partnering with a vibrant and respon- sive school community, will empower a school’s leap from good to great and beyond. Jerry Larson, an associate with Educational Direc- tions Incorporated, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is a leadership coach/consultant who has served as head of school, administrator, teacher, and coach at various independent schools. He is the husband of an inde- pendent school teacher, the parent of an independent school student, and a trustee of the Forman School (Connecticut). Dr. Jerry Larson, CHIC Jerry has over twenty years experience working with and leading individuals and teams in high performing organizations. As a Head/CEO of a $10 million, 100 employee organization, Jerry delivered 22% growth over an 18 month period and led an $8 million capital improvement process. Jerry has a Doctorate in Education from Boston University in counseling and human development with an emphasis in performance and sport psychology. He also holds an MBA and has certifications in coaching from The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara (CHIC), and in coaching leadership through emotional intelligence from Weatherhead School of Management. Jerry is also a certified William Bridges facilitator for Leading Individual and Organization Change. Contact Jerry Larson at (401) 374-7183 jerry@drjlarson.com www.drjlarson.com

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