I recently listened to WIllard Daggett, Ph.D., founder and President of the International Center for Leadership in Education talk about the three ‘R”s.
According to Daggett: Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor.
Daggett was referring to teachers working with students in the classroom; but I think there is something useful that we can take from this as educational leaders.
Daggett’s point about relationships was that learning is personal. When teachers have strong, trusting relationships with their students, they work harder and achieve more. The same is true with leaders. We may have lot’s of ideas about what needs to be done; but without trusting relationships with those we wish to lead, we will find ourselves charging up San Juan Hill alone. It’s so common and so human to get excited about the Rigor (this could be technology, new classroom pedagogy, etc.) that we forget to build strong foundational relationships before setting off on our journey.
Once there is trust we can move to Relevance. The more students understand how what they are learning is relevant to them, to their community, or to the world at large; the more motivated they will be to learn.
As leaders it is important to create change narratives that address Relevance. The most powerful narratives address Relevance in two ways: 1) How is this new action or way of doing things going to affect YOU, as an individual? and 2) How is this new action or way of doing things going to affect the world outside yourself?
Leaders who can create narratives that express the ways change will take care of the stakeholder’s personal concerns, and at the same time explain how the change will be making the classroom, school, or world a better place; have set the scene for great things to happen
I’ve known people with great ideas (rigor) that never get implemented because they have lousy relationships or have overlooked relationships with people that are important to their success. I’ve known people who can’t articulate their vision in a way that makes it seem relevant to those they wish to lead. I’ve seen people who focus on nothing but relationships. They are glib, backslapping, political types who want to be liked. They have the relationships but don’t use them to accomplish a larger goal.
Like most things in life it comes down to balance.
Relationships and relevance make rigor possible.