Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Seven C's of Competent Leadership

1    Communication that is clear, concise, accurate, timely and compelling. Staying in touch  with constituents with information that keeps them up to date, connected and
 contributing goes a long way toward strengthening any organization.

2.      Collaboration with colleagues that is supportive and encouraging.  It may take a little more time, effort and energy but in the long run everyone gets more done when a team is working together openly and smoothly.

3.      Confidence that inspires trust, respect and the open sharing of information.  Self-knowledge about one’s assets and liabilities helps to lead others and fill in with talented associates where most needed.

4.      Courage to take on the difficult challenges and find workable solutions, solve a problem and move forward.  Stepping up to the big issues requires a willing spirit as well as a body and a mind in healthy condition.

5.      Compassion that demonstrates care for the well-being of individuals and the working environment.  A visible and genuine sensitivity to the needs of colleagues individually and the institution as a whole is greatly appreciated and the benefits help everyone.

6.      Commitment to agreed upon goals and plans and to ensuring the completion
of tasks and projects in a timely fashion.  Following through on the details lays the ground work, attitude and atmosphere for the next project.

7.      Character that reflects integrity, honesty, empathy, genuineness and warmth.
Modeling desirable behaviors sets the tone for others and enriches the community as a whole.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thanksgiving 11/11

What does it mean to pause, take time out, time off and immerse one's self in a place and space for giving thanks?  As I face 103 degrees East and watch the sun rise over the hills, I am ever grateful for the gift of a new day.  The trees and the fields are waiting for Winter having shed any remnants of golden leaves and the green, green of summer long past.  Only the Chamisa has a tint of color.  The fish have gone to the bottom of the pond to hibernate, the donkeys, Dusty and Daisy,  have put on their thicker, warmer coats and the chickens now roost a little closer for more warmth, insulating each other from any draft.  The dogs are asleep, as are the cats, and we wait for the first arrivals today of family, some 11 of us gathering for the traditional feast tomorrow.  Others are scattered coast to coast and we think of each of them and connect through the phones, emails, pictures and conversations that have to do with celebrating so much that we have been given.  One of the most precious gifts of all is the time we have to enjoy these  blessings of a full and rich life.  We will build a fire, gather around the hearth and tell stories, remembering the past and planning for the future.  The meaning is in the moment, and what we make of this time together and how we touch each others minds, hearts and spirits in loving, giving and receiving.
For me, this is how I shall celebrate, in a conscious and intentional way, these days of Thanksgiving.  May your days have time to reflect, renew, regenerate and realize some deeper meanings that will fill you with gratitude.  Feast on that, my friends.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Join a small group of colleagues in a fabulous setting for a unique experience!

“Leading is building collaborative energy, listening, asking questions, discerning and helping a group move forward with a purposeful, shared vision.”  GRG

November 13-16: Deciding to Lead: The Art and Experience of Leadership,  JUST CONCLUDED! – 30 participants from all over the U.S. -  Consider the April Seminar.

March 3:  9AM-4PM  The Interim Headship: Design and Implementation in Real Time
Seattle, WA (following NAIS)  Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue

March 8-11: Teacher as Leader: Learning Effective Leadership
Guest Faculty – Dr. Ann Lieberman, Stanford University

La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico

April 22-25:  Leadership Unplugged:  The Inner Landscape of the Leader
 Guest Faculty – Tony Gerlicz, Director, American School in Warsaw

La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico

July 15-19, 2012:  The Art of Innovation: Leaders Designing Change
July,  Hillbrook School, Los Gatos, California

October 7-10, 2012:  The Art and Experience of Leadership
SFLC at The American School in London


Sunday, 13 November 2011

World Kindness Day - Suggestions

Smile Deck Ideas- Clubs/Hearts/Spades/Diamonds

Clubs: For People You Know
2 Leave a snack for an unsuspecting co-worker or friend.
3 Give a friend your favorite inspirational book with a personal note attached.
4 Connect two friends who had not previously met each other.
5 Share an inspirational story from today's news.
6 Make a lunch for someone and slip a joke in it.
7 Write positive notes about your family or friends and share them.
8 Help someone with a chore, unexpectedly.
9 Do a 'dance of joy' for someone close to you.
10 Using crayons, make your own card for someone you love.
J Write a song, poem or a note for a loved one.
Q Get in touch with an old friend who you'd like to reconnect with.
K Write a thank you note to a teacher who inspired you.
A Call a mentor to say thank you.

Hearts: For Those Unknown
2 Hide spare change where a stranger will find it within the hour.
3 Tell a public service employee how valuable they are. 
4 Play the role of doorman for 15 minutes.
5 Strike up a conversation with someone who looks like they need a friend.
6 Buy bottles of water and hand them to passers-bys with a smile. 
7 Pay for the person behind you in line. 
8 Acknowledge an act of kindness by someone else and thank them.
9 Donate your favorite book to the nearest library with a note inside on why you love it!
10 Strike up a conversation with an elderly person.
J Knock on 10 doors and give them a snack-- reverse trick-or-treat!
Q Create 5 cards with positive messages and leave them in a coffee shop for someone to discover.
K Pick someone unknown around you, make them smile at any cost.
A Hug the first 5 people you see!

Spades: For Our World
2 Research the most eco-friendly materials for clothing and personal care and share them with your friends.
3 Clean up litter on your block.
4 Send a thank you note to a person or business helping the world.
5 Go to the nearest park and clean up as much as you can!
6 Find 3 stories of earth-friendly people and share them.
7 Call an animal shelter and donate at least one item they need.
8 Stand outside a supermarket and give people reusable shopping bags.
9 Hand out long-life light bulbs to those around you.
10 Give an eco-friendly gift to at least 1 neighbor.
J Plant a fruit tree where it will thrive.
Q Green your food!  Cook a locally grown, organic, or vegetarian meal for your friends.
K Hug a tree in public, inspire another to do the same.
A Make and post signs with tips to reduce water use.

Diamonds: For Yourself
2 Play sports with people you don't know in the park.
3 Write a list of what you are grateful for RIGHT NOW and share with friends.
4 Smile! And say hello to 5 strangers.
5 Offer inspiring reading to someone in the room.
6 Post a list of random kind acts in a public place.
7 Learn a statement of gratitude in another language and share it.
8 Leave flowers on the doorstep of someone you don't know and run!
9 Use physical comedy or your wit to be funny and laugh with the group :)
10 Pay for an unknown person's meal anonymously.
J Give away something important to you.
Hand out balloons to kids while skipping around in public!
K Close your eyes and practice absolute silence for 15 minutes.
A Give away one of your possessions RIGHT NOW.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Proverbial Seven P's

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Pee Poor Performance or perhaps it should read Prior Proper Planning Produces Positive Productive Performance!
I do not know who deserves credit for the seven P’s but they really capture so much of why a good plan results in positive performance and a poor plan prevents productive performance.  Enough alliteration, we get the point!
I am moved to think about several experiences where good planning was essential in order to achieve the desired results and here they are, both personal and professional.  My roommate is much better in planning ahead than I am and she often books things a year in advance because she always knows the cancellation policy.  Her mantra is that she would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.  She is usually right.
Planned parenthood is more than an official organization and thus the advent of children can be planned, at least to some degree.  What young parents do not realize are the tremendous financial and emotional costs of raising a child.  If we did, some of us may not have had more than one child.  Yet none of us would trade them in nor the experience we have had growing up with them.  It is a terrific journey!
Family life education is an academic discipline with universities dedicating entire departments to the research and study of family systems and behaviors.  I signed up for one of those in 1969 at The Pennsylvania State University and both my masters and doctorate degrees were in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.  Even that took some creative planning as we had no money and three young children.
In another arena which has to do with scuba diving, sailing, fishing, hiking, camping and travel, much of the planning has to do with safety, knowing what resources are needed to have a successful trip and being able to read the signs along they way.  Charts, maps, a compass, a GPS, supplies, fuel, food, proper gear, clothing and equipment must all be inventoried, checked for condition and maintained properly in order for everything to work as it should with optimum performance.  Air tanks and regulators, rigging and engines, rods, reels, boots, tents, lights, batteries and vehicles – all require preventive service and support as well as renewal when needed.  And still, the success and joy of these experiences depend upon the individuals and their skills of application to the conditions.
Planning something as daunting as a new school or a new organization is an even more challenging enterprise but we have done that and the stories are laden with a lot of time, effort and energy invested in the planning stages, sometimes an entire year of planning.  The essential ingredients in those plans have been the people who had the vision, mission and passion (see The IONS of Leadership) to garner the resources and hire the right people.  As Jack Welch says, “If you get hiring right 70% of the time, you’re a genius.”  I think we did better than 70% when we started and that made all the difference between succeeding and failing.
The latest trends in planning have to do with Design Thinking, and using architectural models of blueprints, as those can be altered according to needs, budgets, discoveries along the way and thus a dynamic, organic experience rather than anything rigid and unbending.  The point of planning whether strategic or tactical, whether by design or default, whether by CAD or 17 different types of engineering, the point of planning forward is to realize the dream.  I recall Zena Jacques quoting her grandfather's seven truths, one of which was, “Nothing ever was except it was first a dream.”   Maybe Joseph Campbell said it best: “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”   And finally this:  “He who fails to plan plans to fail.”  Simple stuff, really.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The IONS of Leadership

I like the definition of ion as an electrically charged particle, thinking of a person who is “charged” with the opportunities and responsibilities of leadership. Or, consider the leader who can display a controlled field of energy that is contagious. And, I like the origin of the word ion in Greek, where it means literally, going.  But what prompted my thinking about ions are three words that describe the essential characteristics of an effective leader, and those are vision, mission and passion, all ending in ion.  Truth to tell, those words all end in sion as distinct from ion or tion. While taking some liberties with the etymology, what is clear is that each word has a verb base.
The base for vision is from the Latin word that means “seeing” and for mission, the base verb, again from Latin, means, “sending.”  What requires some explanation and clarification is the verb root for passion which means to suffer.  The easy answer is that the meaning and use of certain words change over time.
 Vision -  I have often said that there are several kinds of vision that a leader can use for different purposes.  There is the ever-popular 20/20 hindsight, looking back to see what history has to offer for what we can learn and what we might not want to repeat.  Another kind of vision, perhaps employed most frequently, has to do with understanding and meaning, and that is insight, looking into things with a bit of discernment and coming out with greater clarity.  Thus we are able to move forward with purpose and direction.  And finally, there is foresight, looking ahead to see what’s coming and projecting and propelling a way forward that has yet to be determined.  It is often helpful to have a map, an internal GPS or at least the semblance of a plan, knowing that it will change along the way.  More and more I see the need for clarity – clarity of vision would be a good starting point.
Vision sees in all directions, like a compass, but one must pay attention to which direction the needle is pointing and whether or not course corrections are required to achieve the stated goal or objective.  On such a journey it helps to know the conditions both above and below the surface, which way the winds are blowing and what the prevailing weather conditions are all around.
Mission -  “Your mission, if you decide to accept it is………This message will destruct in 30 seconds.”  The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a popular TV spy show in the mid-sixties featuring Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, played by Robert Vaughan and David McCallum, respectively. Their mission was to fight the enemies of peace and their classic archenemy was a vast organization called THRUSH  (originally named WASP in the series pilot movie). The original series never explained what the acronym THRUSH stood for, but in several of the U.N.C.L.E. novels written by David McDaniel, it was expanded as the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.  U.N.C.L.E. stood for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. 
Every school and most organizations today have a mission, a clearly stated purpose and rationale for who they are and what they do.   A leader needs to have a personal and professional mission, one that hopefully resonates with the group whom he or she serves. The mission is the message and the leader is the messenger, the one who is sent (or called) to deliver the news.  Some missions seem to be in the realm of aspiration while others hope for inspiration.  In most instances I would plead for a short, simple, descriptive and compelling statement.  Just three sentences of reasonable length can give the reader (or listener) an accurate picture of what is the essence of a community and what is of value in the place being described.
Passion -To capture the essence of passion, we need to know what it is that fuels our intensity for caring, for loving that which we do and for which we are, in fact, willing to suffer.  That will put both dimensions of passionate energy together – powerful positive feelings of caring that are visible and demonstrable and painful feelings that might emanate from issues of injustice, inequity and hurtful behaviors, or the lack of caring and concern. Compassionate action is much to be preferred over dispassionate disregard if we are to build communities that work together for the common good.  The question, once again is why.  Why do you do what you do?  If at least part of that response is that you find great joy in it, you’re on the right track.  On the other hand, if one happens to find joy in making others suffer, that might require some attention and treatment, perhaps a man from UNCLE!
Commitment to vision and mission can be seen in the passionate energy which one displays for all to see and feel.  It is probably better, not in short or temporary bursts of enthusiasm for some particular project, although that can be welcome support for the duration, but much better in the consistent high levels of energy which can fuel support from the wider community.
The big questions out of this for consideration here are where are you going with your leadership and how do your vision, mission and passion translate for and with others in your work, in your life and in your community?  And finally, how would you like to be remembered in terms of what you cared about the most?  The answers or response to those questions will be lived out and not need many words to be spoken.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Critical Components for Effective Leadership

With credit  to The Harvard Business Review (January 2009) “Women and the Vision Thing”:  Critical Components of Leadership that comprise the Global Executive Leadership Inventory, here are 12 descriptions of leadership characteristics and behaviors that may well determine a high level of success for a those in positions of leadership.  I have extrapolated these to apply to heads of schools but they also apply to many others as well and you can insert President, CEO and numerous other titles.   However, that said, when politics and personalities enter in, there are simply no guarantees of outcomes and those tricky waters must be navigated with great care and skill.
·      Envisioning: A Head of School can articulate “a compelling vision, mission, and strategy that incorporates a multi-cultural and diverse perspective and connect to stakeholders on a global scale.”
·      Empowering: at all levels of the school the Head of School empowers followers by delegating and sharing information.
·      Energizing: The Head of School inspires us to achieve the goals of school.
·      Designing and Aligning: The Head of School is adept at creating world-class organizational design and control systems and uses them to align behavior with the intended values and goals.
·      Rewarding and feedback: The Head of School delivers a constant stream of rewards and structures and gives constructive feedback.
·      Team building: The Head of School creates team players even in an arena of scarce resources and focuses on team effectiveness, instilling a cooperative atmosphere that promotes collaboration and encourages constructive conflict.
·      Outside orientation: The Head of School makes internal and external constituents aware of outside constituencies, how we impact local communities and they impact us.
·      Global mind-set: The Head of School is the glue between the regional, national, and international cultures represented in our community.
·      Tenacity: The Head of School encourages and models courage and tenacity and takes reasonable risks.
·      Emotional intelligence: the key to The Head of School’s leadership, effectiveness, excellence, and fairness is the trust fostered in the school by creating – primarily by setting an example – an emotionally intelligent workforce whose members are self aware and treat others with respect and understanding. 

The Head of School should demonstrate two other traits that may be the most difficult for authentic Head of Schools: life balance and resilience to stress. These are harder traits to evaluate, but they are essential not only for the Head of School’s success but also for sustained effective Leadership. 

Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado

After hearing winter storm warnings for Denver, we pointed Li'l Sugar toward Abiquiu.  Last night we made it to Luverne, Minnesota and a wonderful state park campground complete with a bison herd, including a very large bull, gorgeous as he looked straight at us, unconcerned but curious.  Even more curious were the gray deer that strolled by our campsite.  We were the only ones in the campground and while we are also large and gray, we must have looked rather strange to them.  Many miles later through open expanses of rangeland through SD, we angled down to CO and are just northeast of Denver.  Should be home by early afternoon tomorrow.