Happy April! I have just returned from a wonderful weekend studying and learning with and from Linda Lambert. Linda Lambert, author of Leadership Capacity for Lasting School Improvement and Building Leadership Capacity in Schools is known for her work on reconceptualizing leadership. This weekend's dialogue focused on her most recent thinking on building leadership capacity. The conversation was robust and thought provoking. While I took so much away from our time together, three key concepts struck me most deeply and I will take time here to share these leadership learnings with you. They align well with my work on finding one's voice and our responsibility to become skillful participants in our organizations.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
The Definition of Leadership Might Be Bigger Than You Think
Leadership is a Landscape
The traditional concept of leadership is one defined by formal authority, title or position. If you have a name on a door, you are a leader. Lambert's vision of leadership extends far beyond this limited frame. Acts of leadership include anything that helps to strengthen or support learning of the community. If one takes notes during a meeting, and by doing so, captures the key points needed to move a vision forward, that person is a leader. If one brings food and sets up the room for a dialogue by moving furniture around in a way that allows all group members to communicate more effectively, he too is doing an act of leadership. If a person brings a voice of dissent into the room and if another person acknowledges that voice as important to the discussion, both of those participants are also leaders. Acts of leadership are those that support the group's growth. What smaller acts have you witnessed in a group lately you didn't see were acts of leadership but now under this broader umbrella grow into much more meaningful contributions?
Leadership Is Tenderness
In 1928 while living under Mussolini's rule, D.H. Lawrence wrote, "When leadership has died...then it will be born again, perhaps, new and changed, and based on the reciprocity of tenderness." Leadership as tenderness. In my first few moments with this statement, the connection of the word 'tenderness' to 'leadership' was not immediately apparent. Leaders are strong; they have direction and vision and purpose. They stand tall and have a credible voice. Yet with a few more moments with the quote, the word 'tenderness' took on a different meaning. From tenderness to sensitivity and from there to empathy. And the connection made sense. Leaders move toward the others in community, physically and emotionally. True leaders have compassion. Leaders add a moral dimension to their work and are driven by values of caring and consideration. What at first glance seemed dissonant, at second glance seemed utterly true. What acts of tenderness have you seen recently that might be defined as acts of leadership?
Leadership Is a Responsibility of All
Lambert has the following assumption, "Everyone has the potential, the right, and the responsibility to be a leader. Leading is skilled and complicated work that every member of the school community can learn." The responsibility rests on all of us to learn how to become skillful participants in our organization. Everyone has the responsibility to learn how to advocate and inquire. How to listen and how to contribute effectively. "Leading is a shared endeavor, the foundation for the democratization of schools." Building these leadership skills is our obligation as citizens in our country, and as learners in our organizations. On a daily basis I work to help others find their voice, but until working with Linda this weekend, I hadn't strongly woven the ideal of democracy into the purpose of my work. We are collectively responsible to develop our communication skills. By doing so we can have more meaningful and more vigorous conversations that make a difference. What can you do to become a more skillful participant in your organization?
Check out these great books.
Relating to Adolescents: Educators in a Teenage World by Susan Eva Porter. This book is sitting on my nightstand because it includes "Five Things Teens Need from Grown-Ups" and "Seven Grown-Up Skills" that help educators increase their effectiveness in working with teenagers in schools. I am thinking that these skills might help us work with the adults in the schools as well!
Tough Choices for Teachers: Ethical Challenges in Today's Schools and Classrooms by Robert Infantino and Rebecca Wilke. I worked with Bob years ago in the California Association of Teachers of English. Bob has taught ethics courses and has put his repertoire of case studies into a book we can use in professional learning communities and as professional developers. "The case studies included by the authors involve ethical dilemmas dealing with honesty, integrity, and proper professional behavior." Good starting points for great conversations.
Building Sustainable Leadership Capacity - edited by Alan Blankstein, Paul Houston and Robert Cole. This book, the 5th volume in The Soul of Educational Leadership Series, includes a chapter by Linda Lambert, along with others by Michael Fullan, Dean Fink, Alma Harris, Dennis Sparks and others. The book "offers inspiring articles that examine how to sustain the achievements of school communities while building shared leadership to carry on the work of school improvement, even when facing tight budgets or a change in leadership." Coming out in May of 2009.
Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!
The Heart of Teaching: Beyond Content
Math for America Master Teacher Fellows Workshop
New York, NY
How The Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work
Book Study for Elementary Instructional Reform Facilitators
San Francisco Unified School District
San Francisco, CA
Being Generationally Savvy
Classified Employee Workshop
Madera County Office of Education
For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.
Until next time,
Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to www.jenniferabrams.com