The Servant Leader

Recently I was given the opportunity to read a book entitled “The Servant Leader” by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.

Below are my notes that I took while reading this book.


As you lead ask yourself “Am I a servant leader or a self-serving leader”. Be brutally honest with yourself. It will take you to the core of your intention and motivation as a leader. (Pg. 17)

Alice came to a fork in the road. She asked the Cheshire Cat which road to take. The cat asked where she was going, she didn’t know. The cat responded, “Then it doesn’t matter”. Without clear direction, your leadership doesn’t matter. (Pg. 47)

What are the key values of your organization? Which is the most important? True success in servant leadership depends on how clearly values are defined, ordered, and lived by the leader. (Pg. 51)

The vision of your organization must be bigger than you are. Servant leadership starts with a vision and ends with a servant heart that helps people live according to that vision. (Pg. 57)

STRIVING TO BE A SERVANT LEADER

You must elevate growth and development of people from a “means” to an “end” goal of equal importance to the product or service of the organization. Servant leadership requires a level of intimacy with the needs and aspirations of the people being led that might be beyond the level of intimacy and ego-driven leader is willing to sustain. (Pg. 58)

Sustainable servant leadership behaviors will only emerge as an expression of a committed and convinced heart. (Pg. 58)

Servant Leadership Involves ….

  1. Setting the vision
  2. Defining and modeling the operating values, structure and behavior norms
  3. Creating the follower environment with partners in the vision
  4. Moving to the bottom of the hierarchy with service in mind

Servant leaders have a role in facilitating change. Leaders must recognize there are four levels of change that vary in degrees of difficulty and time required.

  1. ”Knowledge” – Easiest and lest time-consuming thing to change. To increase knowledge we can read a book, take a class, or listen to an expert.
  2. ”Attitude” – Emotionally charged bits of knowledge. People either feel positive or negative about something. Changing somebody’s attitude is more difficult than changing their knowledge.
  3. ”Behavior” – Much harder and more time-consuming to change than attitude and knowledge. Now people have to actually do something. Before it was just having knowledge about a topic or adjusting your feelings on a topic. Now you must ACT on a topic.
  4. ”Organization” – Most difficult to change and most time-consuming. You have to influence knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of many different people.

Why is change so hard?
Change is a must. We adapt or we die. The same is true for organizations. As a servant leader, we must determine which changes are needed to implement the vision and help people move in that direction.

The Seven Reactions People have to Change

  1. People feel awkward, ill at ease when confronted by change.
    • Tell people what to expect.
  2. People will feel alone even if everyone else is going through the same change.
    • Structure activities that create involvement. Encourage individuals to share ideas and to work together to help each other through change.
  3. People will think first about what they have to give up.
    • Don’t try to sell the benefits of the change effort initially. Let people mourn their perceived losses. Listen to them.
  4. People will think they can only handle so much change at once.
    • Set priorities on which changes to make, and go for the long run.
  5. People will be concerned that they don’t have enough resources to implement the change.
    • Encourage creative problem-solving.
  6. People will be at different levels of readiness for any particular change.
    • Don’t label or pick on people. Recognize that some people are risk-takers and others take longer to feel secure. Someone who’s an early adopter of one type of change might balk at another type of change.
  7. If the pressure is taken off, people will refer to old behaviors.
    • Keep people focused on maintaining the change and managing the journey.

Encouragement and Feedback

We do the best we can but we still need outside information to help us see how we’re doing. (Pg. 102)

Two main ways growth takes place:

  • When you are open to feedback from other people.
  • When you are willing to disclose your vulnerabilities to other people.

Purposeful Leadership

Many people have great examples of leaders in their lives.  From Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa to Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy Jr.  All of these leaders are very different in their leadership styles and how they were leading.  One thing that is in common with all of them is that they were not leading projects but instead of leading people.

At times in the educational setting, school leaders get pinned down to being project managers, with the project being the school that they are running.  I recently spent some time with a former high school administrator who said: “High school teachers are just like independent contractors that share a parking lot.”  Spending most of my time at the secondary level,  I never saw it through this lens before.

Many teachers at the secondary level just want school leaders to manage their time and never think about the process of learning that is taking place in their classrooms or to even question what goes on in that classroom.  This, unfortunately, is a plague in many high schools, but many would disagree this actually takes place when in-fact it does.

We have the extreme pleasure of working in an industry where we must day in and day out be life-long learners.  What does that mean exactly?  Each day we must push ourselves further than we did before to learn and hone our practice.  What are you doing to push yourself to learn each day?  I have increased my reading load.  Currently, I have five books on the stand to read in the coming months as we get ready to head into summer.  I have also been working to start a podcast.  It helps me to discuss the topics that I am passionate about.  I am an out loud thinker so when I am driving I look like a nut talking to himself.  I even talk to myself when people are in the car.

Below is a presentation that we made to our staff to highlight the changes in leadership.  Leadership is not a top-down model.  It is a side-by-side model and we work together for the same goal.  It is best viewed as a coaching model.

The Power of “Yet”

As educators we all want our students to be successful.  We work hard each and every day for ALL students to help them be successful.  There are many great instructional practices that we employ on a daily basis to help them be successful.  Great teachers use all of their tools in their toolboxes to help ALL students be successful.

Each day administrators go into classrooms to see all of these wonderful instructional practices put in place for students.  The one instructional practice that we do not get to see very often first hand is undoubtedly the most important, failure.  Failure leads to the path of success only if you learn from your failure.  Failure is where all of the lessons are.

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We need to teach students that failure is OK.  Many parents do not feel this way.  Many see a B or even a C on a progress report and just go through the roof (I too have been subject to this).  As I reflect back, I realize that I should have taken far different positions with my own children.  Seeing them struggle with trying to master something is OK.  If we swoop in and do it for them each and every time, they will never master the skill they need to.

These are reasons why we need to teach kids the Power of Yet.  Many students go through each day and say things like “I am not successful” or “I cannot find the answer”.  By teaching students that adding one word to each of these sentences, drastically changes the outlook for kids.

  • I am not successful, yet.
  • I cannot find the answer, yet.

These put hope in their despair.  Teaching students a growth mindset is important.  It will help them be sufficient on their own, want to have productive relationships in their lives, and enable them to seek new learning each day.  Daily growth in learning and relationships with others will lead students down a successful path.  One statement that I use on a regular basis with students is that “Failure is the rehearsal for success”.

I love this video by Will Smith on Failure.

Moments of Truth. Difficult, but worth it.

I am currently reading “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.  In the story, the new CEO of a tech company is put in a position to have to confront one of her team members.  While she was put in the position she resisted the temptation to confront the team member via email and knew that it was a moment of truth for her as a leader and that it needed to be done face-to-face.  I won’t ruin the book for you but I felt her she handled this situation above reproach.

Recently, I received an email from a staff member outlining a long list of issues that needed to be addressed by our administrative team that impacted their department.  There were many of these issues that we could not address.  We simply did not have the resources to tackle all of this issues.  At the end of the day, we had to make a decision that was best for kids and preparing them for graduation and life.  One of these concerns we easily dealt with and took care of the concern.

Now when I addressed these concerns, I did so in an email.  After reading this part of the book and how the new CEO handled her particular situation, I reflected back about if I should have sent that in an email or went to them in a face-to-face conversation.  Doing so in an email did make it easier, but was it better?  I struggle with this day in and day out.  I believe the most important quality in any leader is the outgoing need to develop relationships with the people that you lead.  Did sending this email help that or hurt that?

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please post comments below.

How are you making students feel?

As an attempt to change up how I am blogging and am starting to record videos on my thoughts.  I usually have plenty of time to record a 4-5 minute video while I am driving to and from the school.  I figured this would give me a more authentic posting and more frequent posting as well.  I rarely have time to sit down and write a long post about what I am learning or struggles that I am going through to share with other educators.  So for 2018, it is my hope that this will inspire you and help you along your way to being a successful educator.  You can find a link to my YouTube Channel on the sidebar.

Remember, what will you do with the time that you have been given? (#WWYDWTTTYHBG)

You will run out of tomorrows….. What will you do today, for those that need you?

I recently read a tweet (pic below) from Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) that had me thinking more about the power of relationships. While every leader in the world would stress the importance of relationships, some do not practice this life skill or have the passion to do so. I have been so blessed to have many good examples of relationship builders in my life.

With the recent passing of my father-in-law, I have spent more time in reflection than I normally have in the past.  Most of my reflection has been centered on the importance of relationships and how they are so crucial in all aspects of life.

My father-in-law Dave was a teacher at a small school middle in Oregon for 21 years.  During his 21-year tenure, he had many impacts on students, parents, and community members like many teachers do.

This morning I overheard my mother-in-law reading a message to my wife that she received from a lady that was connected to the school.  In her message, she said that she did not get to know Dave well other than the few interactions that she had with him during his time at the school.  She said that all of the kids that left that school to head on to high school have been hit very hard by the loss.

This is just one story of the students and parents that have been hit with this loss.  There have been hundreds of others.  Phone calls, cards, trains, planes, and cars have come from all areas of the country to be with him in his final days, and after, just because he put them first before himself.  A prime example of servant leadership.

But, did he realize the impact that relationship had on them?  Did he know that the relationship that he had with them would impact their lives forever?  Do any of us know this?  Whether we know or not, the relationships that we have with others will set their path along with ours on a different course forever.  What course do you want the relationship to go?

Today, you have a choice in each relationship that you have.  Whether at work, home, church, or the community.  How do you want that relationship to move forward?

  1. Listen twice as much as we talk.  This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.  Use them in that proportion.
  2. Let your yes be yes and your no is no.
  3. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
  4. Never let the sun set on our anger.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We only have today to make a difference.

We were designed to be a people that crave and need relationships within our daily lives.  Without these relationships, we are nothing but an empty shell riding this rock until the end of our days.

We are all in this together.  You will run out of tomorrows, so what will you do today, for those that need you?  Dave would say “We cannot change who we are, but we can change who we are going to be.”

I am in your corner…

This weekend, as I was reflecting on my week, I ran across an article by Daniel Steele entitled “Letter to a Discouraged Student“.  This was a very profound letter.  Beautifully written from a principal to student perspective.  While I have no idea if this was actually written for a specific student or for the general masses.  One thing is for sure, it applies to every student who struggles with school and every student who did struggle with school.  I can relate to this letter.

We as educators always put ourselves in the place to make things better for kids.  I am not the type of person that likes to be at the front of attention, especially in large crowds.  Being in a leadership position at times does put you at the forefront.  Remembering my first year as an Athletic Director being put in the position of heading one of the largest departments in the district was a real growing moment in my professional/personal life.  At the end of each year, we held an athletic awards banquet.  Of course, the MC?  Me.  This was a nerve-racking situation for me all year.  I started working out what I was going to say months before it was time.  In the end, it was fine.  I was nervous, to say the least.  The next year I repeated the event and pushed through.

While I know that this was a weakness of mine, it didn’t stop me from doing what was important, being there for kids.  Most recently I was in a similar position where our student-body was looking for people to be part of a fundraiser that in the end, the winner would get a pie in the face in front of the whole school.  There were some pretty popular teachers as well as the Principal that all signed up.  I figured I would be way down the list before getting picked.  Nope!  I was in the top three.  So that meant pie in the face!  Now, this is something that put me in front of everybody again.  I did it because it was important to kids.

Kids, I know my weaknesses and I know my strengths.  Being part of the attention is not one of them.  But know that even if it means being front and center with the spotlight on me, if that is what you need, I will do it.  Know that I am in your corner.

 

Isolation eliminates success in education

I was recently reading on Leadershipfreak.com about three types of people you should surround yourself with as a leader.

The post was very interesting. Starting out with the statement “The enemy of success is isolation.” Now, this for sure applies to leaders but how about teachers in the classroom? Most teachers are in isolation. Rarely do they leave their room and they stay there for most of their career.

Are these teachers unsuccessful? I do not believe that they are totally but as cliche, as it sounds, it does take a village to raise a child. Teachers need to be getting out of their rooms as much as they can in order to network with other teachers from other disciplines. In order to be successful in the classroom, we must network together learning from one another.

Leadership 11/6/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Five characteristics of successful leaders/entrepreneurs

  • Showing up – Rosabeth quotes Woody Allen’s famous saying that 90% of success in life comes from just showing up, and I agree.  In the context of leaders and entrepreneurs that means getting started on things and being visible, and that includes when things are difficult/might not work.  In fact, not putting off the difficult things is what separates effective people from the rest.
  • Speaking up – we all know that great leaders make great speeches, and often those speeches come to define the period of leadership – think about Martin Luther King and you quickly think about his famous “I have a dream” speech.  It is still inspiring nearly 50 years later (if you haven’t heard it recently listen here – 9mins in is a good place to start).  More prosaically CEOs and founders are most effective when they are vocal within their companies shaping the debate and articulating the conclusions at team meetings.  I recently asked a former employee of successful UK SEO/SEM agency The Search Works why the company had prevailed over its competitors and his answer was that Nick Hynes, the CEO, had a special talent for articulating the vision and direction of the business and getting everyone at the company believing and pulling in the same direction.  Think about that for a moment.
  • Teaming up – great companies aren’t built by individuals, they are built by teams.  Usually that is a team of co-founders and in just about every case there is a team of executives who have real power and operate as a team.  Delegation is a pre-requisite for success.
  • Looking up – I’m going to quote directly from Rosabeth’s post here, as she nails it “Looking up: the power of values. Higher principles help people transcend the conflicts and concerns of the moment. Standing for something larger than mere self-interest gives leaders moral grounding and provides a basis for inspiring and motivating the work. Those who are honored as great leaders are not merely good at getting results efficiently, they are able to find grander goals that help people look up to see the big picture and set their sights higher.”
  • Not giving up – much has been written about the importance of persistence, and for good reason.  It is something that is easy to forget when the going gets tough and reminders are useful.  As Rosabeth says “everything can look like failure in the middle”.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 Ways To Make Each Day A Leadership Masterpiece

10 Ways To Make Each Day A Leadership Masterpiece – Forbes

  1. Excel in the moment.
  2. Invest in a relationship and build trust.
  3. Help someone else achieve and grow.
  4. Listen.
  5. Connect someone to your vision, mission, and priorities.
  6. Thank someone.
  7. Prepare for the known and study for the unknown.
  8. Prepare for an important decision.
  9. Leverage white space. Avoid the trap of filling every minute of your calendar.  Better to commit to less and deliver more than to promise and not come through.
  10. Grow physically, mentally, spiritually.

Visionary Leaders

I love what @Leadershipfreak writes on a regular basis.  His leadership insight is that cannot be matched and is perfect for any industry, especially education.
This below is taken from his website.  Vision is important for any leader.  Without vision, execution is a hallucination.  It is extremely important for educational leaders to have a clear vision.  I believe that many schools have leaders that have execution but lack the vision.  So essentially things get done but with no large goal in mind.  So, how do those leaders ever know when they have broken through a barrier and accomplished something?  Are those schools just aimlessly doing the day by day hoping that they are doing right by the children that are in their halls?
If you ever feel that you are just doing the day-by-day and not making any headway to achieving a goal, what vision have you laid out for yourself lately?  Always remember that work without vision is drudgery.  Vision without work is just dreaming.  But when you combine work with a vision you will achieve your destiny.

The Seven Qualities of Visionary Leaders | Leadership Freak:
Vision:

  • Creates vitality.
  • Focuses energy.
  • Explains purpose.

Apart from clear vision:

  • Distraction directs.
  • Desperation disrupts.
  • Despair discourages.

Seven qualities of visionary leaders:

  1. Optimistic about the future.
  2. Focused on the best in their people. They focus on the unique strengths of every employee.
  3. Never satisfied but always content. They seem happy where they are but refuse to stay there.
  4. Consumed with making tomorrow better than today. Hopeful leaders never settle.
  5. Accepting of change.
  6. Inclusive, not exclusive. Hopeful leaders invite others into their vision.
  7. Personally bought in. Vision is inside them.”

Three Qualities Traditional Leaders Reject

Three Qualities Traditional Leaders Reject | Leadership Freak:

Emptiness is opportunity.

The downside of curiosity:

  1. People want to know what you know as well as what you don’t.
  2. Questions feel pushy and threatening when filled with expectation.
  3. Constant curiosity spirals inward and downward.
  4. Creating options causes confusion.

The Myth of the Super Teacher

The Myth of the Super Teacher on Vimeo

Roxanna Elden is a great speaker.  The message that she sends forth in this video is stellar.  I have not read her book as of yet but I intend to.  She is 100% correct when she says that all teachers need honesty, humor, and practical advice.  The only problem I see is that a lot of leaders forget that teachers need this and that they view us as lazy if we are not getting 3 hours of sleep a night in order to create that amazing lesson plan.  We are human.  Nobody works with teenagers on 3 hours of sleep.  Did you before becoming an administrator?

Here is a touching story that is good for everyone to remember:

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you…” he told them.
“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Many administrators have forgotten this over the years of not being in the classroom.  They have forgotten this story for their teachers, but they have not forgotten this for themselves.  Most want us to fill the jar with the sand first and they call us lazy when we don’t.  We are all people, not robots.  It is important to remember that we all have lives outside of those walls, including students, and sometimes situations take place that impacts what goes on in those walls.

This year our superintendent in his opening address wanted to work with various positions around the district as a way to stay connected on what we do day in and day out with children.  This was a huge inspiration for me as a teacher.  Here is someone who quite frankly has a very busy schedule and wants to come in and work with teachers, secretaries, custodians, and bus drivers for a day to get a sense of the “trenches”.  This is a leader.  Not many superintendents would be able to invest, not sacrifice, the much needed time in order to do get the first-hand view of the classroom after so many years being out.

In my talks that I have had with many people I have worked with over the years, many of stressed upon me that whenever I do step into that position of the administration, to not lose sight of what it is like in the classroom.  My intention is to always keep that very close to my heart.  The true battleground is the classroom, not the office.