Recently, I had an experience that surfaced an issue that troubles me. We were working with a group of principals as part of an effort to have them buy into technology, as well as play a more effective role in leading their schools through the cultural change necessary for its systemic use. Our focus was to help them be more effective in their roles as technology change leaders. As an incentive for volunteering for the program each individual received a laptop pc. They had several days of hands-on practice before entering our session.
About a third of the way through the morning a principal raised his hand. He was clearly frustrated and said, “I already know about leadership. I need more hands on training! No offense. I’m just being honest.”
Besides the fact that the program description clearly indicated that the session’s focus would be leadership, his statement surfaced an important attitude that many of administrators, and educators in general, display, “I know about leadership….”
What does it mean to “know about leadership?” Is it something that can be “known”? Is the knowledge of leadership like the knowledge of basketball, or acting, or being a doctor? Is “knowing” simply being able to talk about a subject? Can you know about basketball and not be able to play it? Can you know about leadership and not display it? Was he the best leader he was able to be? Did he embody what he knew?
It’s frustrating to encounter this attitude of “knowing”; as if having cognitive knowledge and insights is equivalent to actually being able to apply the knowledge. “Knowing” about leadership is no substitute for being a leader.
It’s a shame that our schools have made knowledge so abstract; and that so many of the people in authority, responsible for public education, themselves products of the system; want to keep it that way.
We can read books about it, listen to lectures, and talk to the wee hours of the morning about it; but none of those things alone will make us better leaders. Taking these insights and deliberately bringing them to action through the practice of leadership; is the step so many educators fail to take.
Leadership is not a destination; but a journey…it is not a tee-shirt that can be bought, “Leadership…been there, done that!”
…but then again, you already “knew” that, didn’t you.