"Leadership and Management"

Part 1

I drew a rough draft of the image above in a leadership meeting with Tom Grant. Tom shared this quote on his blog, shortly after the meeting.

“I can think of nothing so conspicuously missing in the effort to improve our schools as the continuous engagement of teachers and principals in constructing visions – in contemplating, for instance, what constitutes desirable leadership, what children should learn, and what the teaching profession might become.”  ~ Roland Barth

To be honest, when I came up with this image, it made me feel inadequate as a leader. I want to be both an amazing leader, that fosters a wonderful shared vision, and I want to be an effective manager, that efficiently gets the job done. I don’t think I’m there yet, and despite approaching my 45th birthday, I still sometimes feel like a little kid who is just doing the best he can, with the minimal skills he’s got.

Sometimes I feel like my biggest challenge is to be a more effective manager, so that the operational aspects of my role don’t rob me of my opportunities to lead. Sometimes I feel like no matter how much I do, there is still just too much more to be done.

Am I the only one that feels this way?


Part 2

I’ve had the opportunity to hear two people I really respect present recently. George Couros presented at our Principal’s and Vice Principal’s conference this past weekend, (hear my podcast with George here, and see what he did with us here). Chris Kennedy spoke in a neighbouring district Monday night and I went to see him present, (see his slides here). In talking to my colleagues and to these two educational leaders, I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one that wishes I had more capacity to do the things I really want to do as a leader.

Tonight I came up with this complimentary image to the one above:

"Management Tumps Leadership"

When we, as leaders, intentionally move ourselves out of our comfort zone; when we work on improving our own weaknesses, this is when it is hardest to lead. It is easier to ‘manage’ situations and to distract ourselves with the minutia that we must do. It is hard to make (rather than find) the time to focus on the areas we are working on, and to try to embrace the fear of the unknown. And yet, if we want to be inspiring and effective, we need to role model the ability to push ourselves, the same way we hope to inspire and push others.


Part 3

The educational landscape is changing right before our eyes. We are at a point in history where ‘standing still’, maintaining the status quo, quite literally means falling behind. One of the greatest challenges of today is to prepare our students to adapt and to be adept in facing change. And this is something we need to model for our fellow teachers and educators as well as our students. This is a daunting task if we set out to do it alone! The incredible thing is that we really don’t need to do it alone.

"Leadership Trumps Management"

We need to seek out our mentors that can guide us in the areas we find challenging. We live in an incredibly connected world where we can ask a network of people questions and they can reply, from the other side of the world, in seconds. We can read reflective blog posts that challenge our thinking and help us develop our own stance. We can also find mentors in our own buildings and districts… and they need not be in a hierarchical leadership position… teachers and students can be the best mentors. If we are going to be truly inspirational and visionary, and we are going to foster leadership in others, then we must provide them with leadership opportunities.

It’s pretty cathartic to think that by seeking out mentors to help and guide us, we are actually modeling good leadership and we are inspiring others to connect and learn. After all, we are in the business of learning, so let’s keep the focus on learning!

If you are an educator, then by default you are a leader. We are all working on getting important things done… Together we can truly be agents of positive change. And with that, I’ll end with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to my personal learning network, who help to guide and mentor me. I hope that I can offer you all that you have provided me, and more!

16 comments on “Leadership and Management

  1. Great timing, Dave – have been struggling with the leadership is the way while management is something that leaders used to do. I just read an article by Bruce Beairsto and he discusses Leadership and Management as the Yin and Yang of administration:
    “management and leadership are not intended to be opposites that define a polarity, but rather the yin and the yang of an indivisible whole”.
    These words ring home with me as I have often put too much emphasis on the relational piece that I messed up the rational piece… and lost some trust as I was not efficient. One of the areas in my growth plan is around instructional leadership – I am starting to realize that the most growth will come from working to improve both the management and the leadership aspects of my role. Thanks for putting yourself out there with another great topic.

  2. What I liked about this post and Chris’ response is that as a very new vp, I struggle daily with the balance between managing (for which I really have little training at the admin level) and leadership (which I believe happens in many ways).
    I sometimes think that my day to day is about putting out little fires. Facilities, maintenance, technology. The only real instructional leadership comes with the too infrequent teacher conversations.
    I am looking forward to evaluations, as it gives me time to talk with teachers about our profession.
    Just my first thoughts.

  3. Great post, I really enjoyed the reflection on vision – a central area to a school but one which often is neglected in the tsunami of fire-fighting mentioned by some of the previous posts.

  4. Chris,
    I can also say thank you for ‘putting yourself out there’ both in your comment and on your blog. Thanks for sharing that quote, I too struggle with the notion that great leadership can somehow happen void of the challenges of management. This admittedly opens up an area of growth for me too.

    Not sure if you went to the link ‘business of learning‘ I shared above? That post exemplifies your point in a way… Unless we somehow change the structure of school to embed professional development and collaboration time within the school day, (time to practice and model learning – the thing we should be experts in as educators), then we really end up not having enough of those amazing learning conversations that really matter.

    You might like Andy Hargreaves’ The 4th Way. Here is a blog post I wrote about it: Hargreaves and the 4th Way [Part 2]

    I love Andy’s ‘Pillar’: “An inspiring and inclusive vision that draws people together in the pursuit of an uplifting common purpose.”

  5. Dave,

    Your venn diagram made me think of my own experiences working through the two aspects of an administrator’s job. In my three years in my role as a vp, I have always struggled to find the balance between the two, often trying to “replace” the management with the leadership, telling myself that it is more effective in my role. My metaphor was a teeter-totter, either I was managing or I was leading, sometimes thinking I needed to shift my time to leading much more because it is more important work, etc. I am now seeing how the two are intertwined (thus the common ground within the venn diagram) and work effectively together to carry out , such as managing effective school structures so teachers can collaborate more effectively, providing critical resources for effective teaching, etc.
    Thanks for visualizing the complex relationship between the two aspects!

  6. Hi Kirk,
    I could easily have written your comment! What I mean is that I went through the same shift, which prompted my drawing that first venn diagram. One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that if the management things aren’t handled well, then they become the topic of discussion… which gets in the way of the learning conversations we hope to have. All that said, and as suggested in my post, I’m still learning what it means to blend these two in a truly effective way.

  7. Hello:
    Thank you for your post. This topic always picks a nerve with me. I came into public middle and high school education (science and math) and administration 20 years ago after being in the Navy for 7 years. I was a trained and experienced Naval Officer. Leadership was at the core of what I did everyday. In the military, we take leadership very seriously because we know the positive and negative impact that good and bad leadership has. Much to my suprise, the civilian world has not gotten its collective head around leadership. There is a plethora of books, forums, workshops, retreats, and classes on the subject, but for some reason the lessons seem largely to not be put into practice. Why is that? I wonder if under the stress of running a school principals and superintendents default to old bad habbits.

  8. Hi David,

    It’s wonderful to see that there is a segment of principals and administrators that even see and acknowledge the two sides of their role.

    As students, we sort of saw principals as the big policemen/women that patrol the halls of the schools. We grow up and it’s hard to un-do that kind of thinking— whether we are teachers looking to our administrators; or administrators trying to figure out what to do with their staff.

    I’ve had pretty fantastic principals all my life but only a few that exuded any kind of vision. I don’t most thought they needed one. As the learning landscape shifts with technology and more authentic ideas of what is real learning and what is real ability etc., it’s an imperative that leaders have a vision that addresses all of that. It’s no longer optional. Through the power and breadth of the PLN, there is a segment of the population forging ahead with change at unprecedented speed. I think Jeff Utecht said that if we’re dong the same thing this year as we did last year, we’re already behind. That’s why it’s no longer optional. (Back to the Mitchell & Webb Youtube clip: Bronze Age The consequences are that those with the bronze axes are going to kill us 😉

    By the way, I also think that vision can be spread through both the management side and the mentoring side. Sometimes the management style/decisions speak just as loud– if not more loudly– to advancing the vision than the mentoring side. The real you comes out when we’re dealing with the mundane and also when the pressure is on. 🙂

    It’s great to see (listen-in on) administrators having these sorts of conversations because those, by themselves, also help spread the vision. Teachers can “listen-in” via Social Media and have a better understanding of what you’re asking from us. I imagine (and hope) that administrators are listening-in on what is concerning us. It’s funny to think that in the past (before PLN through Social Media) that we expected the other-side to just guess what what we were thinking and what frustrations we each had.

    The graphics are great by the way. They are a doctoral thesis “distilled”.



Comments are closed.