What is your concept of leadership? Do you think of leadership as being a lonely task? If so, then perhaps you fail to understand the synergy between leaders and their people. Leaders are not lone-rangers who carry the vision and get other people to follow suit. Leaders are listeners who build consensus and rise to the occasion when their people call. That is why oneness matters. Leaders become great only when we become one with our people. Then, and only then, will our leadership become transformational. Intrigued? Read on to learn more.
It’s ironic that we called our new book, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time. Since the book came out two weeks ago, it has been transforming us. In conversation with trainees from our Pilot Training Program, we’ve decided to put Evocative Coaching out into the world through our newest creation: the Center for School Transformation. You can visit the Center online by going to www.SchoolTransformation.com.
One thing I’ve noticed about transformation is that it’s exhilarating in its pace, range, and depth. Far different from evolution, which can proceed quite slowly and incrementally, transformation is revolutionary. It takes the world by storm. One minute we have a relatively small organizational concept, as a coach training program: the Center for Evocative Coaching. The next minute we have morphed into something much larger indeed, replete with coach training, on-site workshops, leadership coaching, and whole-system transformation initiatives. Phew!
The transformation of our website also reveals how much work transformation takes. First, there’s the inspiration: the Center for School Transformation is a much better way to represent what we do and what we have to offer the world. Then, there’s the ideation. How do we capture that in images, metaphors, and stories? It’s not immediately obvious, but it sure is stimulating to imagine the possibilities. Finally, there is the implementation: That’s the grunt work of a website makeover.
We got it all done, just in time for today’s Provision. I hope you enjoy the results and benefit from all the new resources, articles, case studies, and program offerings that you will find on the site. If you have a question or suggestion, please don’t hesitate to write. The Center’s new email is email@example.com.
One thing that gave us the courage to make this transformation was the growing support community around our book and vision. If Megan and I had to carry the load for the Center for School Transformation, there’s no way it would have integrity or move forward. It’s only by virtue of our long-time colleagues in LifeTrek Coaching International, combined with our new-found partners through the Evocative Coaching Pilot Training Program, that we dared to make such a big, bold claim.
In some ways, the vision for the Center began to emerge when I was interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times. He had just gotten off the phone with Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education. Mr. Duncan has spearheaded the effort to transform low-performing schools by “replacing the principal and improving the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.”
The reporter then called me with a straightforward yet challenging question: “How can evocative coaching transform schools?” You can read the answer in our essay, Why We Wrote Evocative Coaching. If the story gets published, it will probably be during the first week in August (ironically, when we will be at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State focused on Excellence in Public Education. We’ll keep you posted on that.
For this Provision, however, as part of our series on great leadership, I want to make clear the importance of our sense of connection and oneness with our colleagues and friends who are equally interested in and passionate about school transformation. Without them, there would be no leadership. With them, there is no backing away from leadership. The two always go hand in hand.
Unfortunately, in American and many Western cultures, leadership is viewed as a solitary, lone-ranger, top-down kind of experience. Leaders have the vision and then persuade others to follow. It is all about their initiatives, their competence, and their personality. They are the ones in control, who therefore stand the most to gain as well as the most to lose from their ventures.
Such is the rationale for excessive CEO compensation packages. They are the leaders so they get the goods. But not every CEO and not every company understands leadership in this way. You may remember the story a few years ago of the Florida CEO who, upon retirement and selling his company for millions of dollars, divided the proceeds between himself and his employees based upon seniority and experience rather than title or position. His rationale was simple: the company was a group effort, so the group should share the good fortune.
That story made front-page headlines and human-interest spots on the evening television news. Why? Because it was so atypical of how most leaders and owners do business. Yet the shift from individualistic to collaborative leadership, from I to we leadership, has ancient roots and is growing new shoots.
In her excellent book, Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age, Juana Bordas ties this style of leadership to communities of color, where it has long been the norm rather than exception. To quote Boardas:
In collectivist cultures, a leader’s authority comes from the group. Leaders are expected to reflect the group’s behavior and values. By listening and gathering people’s opinions, the leader integrates the group wisdom. The leader must find unanimity within the group first, and then act in concert with it. Like a battery, leaders charge people up, facilitate their working together, and assist them in solving problems. Through empowering others, a community of leaders evolves. Standing out too far from others or calling too much attention to oneself can damage the group cohesion that is central to collectivist cultures.
The following dynamics promote this concept: (1) authority comes from the group, which takes precedence over the individual leader; (2) leaders are chosen because of their character, including honesty, humility, and generosity; (3) leaders inspire people to identify with them by setting an example; (4) a leader serves something greater than her- or himself • the mission, cause, or well-being of the community comes first; and (5) a leader plays by the rules.
In other words, oneness matters. Leaders who lack solidarity with their people are not leaders. Solitary leadership is an oxymoron. It’s only through connecting deeply with our people, through listening carefully and embodying fully the future that wants to emerge, that we can together become the change become the change we wish to see in the world.
If you are in a position of leadership, then do your best to give it away. Don’t keep it for yourself, like a prized possession. And don’t think it is all up to you. There is no reason for leadership to be lonely at the top. Instead, make your leadership a common inheritance in which all can share and benefit. Then, and only then, will you experience the power of transformation. Then, and only then, will the power of transformation experience you.
Coaching Inquiries: What kind of leader are you? Are you out front, always trying to bring others along? Or are you a listening presence, always trying to understand and articulate the needs of the community? What would assist you to become one with your people? How you could cultivate that orientation and presence?
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
This Sunday’s edition of Provision, Openness Matters, was particularly special to me. Hard to describe the impact in words. Tomorrow I begin a brief session at a conference with individuals who will be “coaching” leaders of low-achieving schools. This is an ongoing process and I have referred your Center to the folks who are facilitating it. Hope they follow through!
Thank you very much for the two articles in this week’s Provision. The first one on openness and building trust is most timely, and I really appreciate the practical suggestions on building in mindfulness. During some recent difficult times I was definitely open, but not very mindful, and the lessons from that experience are ones I need to take with me into the future.
I also really liked Kate’s contribution regarding neighbourhoods and a sense of community. I have been feeling a bit of a gap and this article invites me to consider ways to explore that gap. It encourages me to join a community walking club to which I’ve been invited, so I thank you for that encouragement.
Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and openness in sharing these contributions. They are such a welcome start to Sundays and the week.
Congratulations again on your book. Can’t wait to read it! I think that my partner and I can apply some or all of the concepts to our marriage relationship. As in schools, so in marriage: trust is the key.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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