Recently, a colleague suggested that a major impediment to effective leadership was the interpersonal mush that existed in schools. All of us have experienced how the “mush” of hidden agendas, conflict, personal preferences, bias and the like can make the life of school leaders extremely complex and trying. Her main point was that leadership requires clarity: clarity from the leader about what they really mean and need. Clarity for the staff so that they are not anxious about what is needed and expected from them.
In a top down, command-demand style of leadership, clarity might be relatively easy to achieve. But, this style is at complete odds with the belief that supportive relationships are essential if a school is to be effective. This presents a challenging paradox: how do leaders initiate the bold and clear actions needed to improve school performance and at the same time maintain positive relationships with the staff and community.
Building professional Relationships
The ability to build strong relationships is essential if sustainable school improvement is to be achieved. But, few if any active or future leaders have an opportunity in their leadership training to learn and grow these relational skills. We hear a great deal about the importance and power of collaboration, but what are the skills needed by a leader to enable her to bring a diverse group of stakeholders to consensus about a sticky problem or difficult decision? You can start on the road to decision making excellence with three basic steps
3 Basic Steps
- Start with the right people in the room. Andew Zolli, in his new book, Resilience, calls it “cognitive diversity.” Different perspectives can help you identify and clarify problems and possible alternatives.
- Use a process. Sophisticated decision-making around complex situations requires a framework that enables true collaboration and rational consideration of all options.
- Make a visual recording. A true decision making framework includes group collaboration. Maintaining a visual recording of your work allows participants and others to gain clarity regarding the path has been travelled and the thinking that supports it.
School leaders work in a complex network of relationships. Their success at mobilizing faculty and parents to do their best work depends on their abilities to grow and maintain honest, supportive relationships with and within that group of important adults. The above steps are just the beginning. For a deeper understanding, watch this short video or check out the white paper – “Creating and Sustaining Decision-Making Excellence.”