Gandhi Story

No one is required to change more than those of us who present ourselves as leaders of educational reform and transformation. Why? Because we are required to model the behaviors we want other to adapt.

There is a story of a woman in India who was upset that her son was eating too much sugar. No matter how much she chided him, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his great hero Mahatma Gandhi.

She approached the great leader respectfully and said,

Sir, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, turned and spoke to her son,

Go home and come back in two weeks.”

The woman looked perplexed and wondered why he had not asked the boy to stop eating sugar. She took the boy by the hand and went home.

Two weeks later she returned, boy in hand. Gandhi motioned for them to come forward. He looked directly at the boy and said,

Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”

The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer.

The boy’s mother turned to Gandhi and asked,

Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

Gandhi smiled,

Mother, two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”

Gandhi lived in such integrity that he would not allow himself to give advice unless he was living by it himself.

This is a worthy summer reflection for those of us who give advice to others in the name of educational change.


Note: I will be away for the next week camping at the beach. No electricity. No cell coverage. My best wishes to all for a peaceful and restful week.


The Tips and Techniques Approach to Leadership

In seminar after seminar I encounter educators who are looking for a simple ‘tips and techniques’ approach to mastering the art of leadership. Talk is cheap. Advice is plentiful. Yet, effective leadership remains rare. For those of you looking for the secret shortcut to being a great leader, I took a few minutes to pull together the highlights from just a small number of the books, blogs, and other resources that are happily giving you the road map to success.

Seven Habits of Successful People -Stephen R. Covey
1. Be pro-active
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think Win/Win
5. Seek to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize – collaboration
7. Sharpen the saw – balanced self-renewal

The Eighth Habit – Stephen R. Covey
Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs

The Six Secrets of Change – Michael Fullan
1. Love your employees & your customers
2. Connect peers with purpose
3. Capacity building trumps judgmentalism
4. Learning is the work
5. Transparency rules
6. Systems learn

The One Thing You Need to Know – Buckingham
Narrowing your focus is a fundamental element of success.

Do Schools Kill Creativity? – Sir Ken Robinson
“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Turnaround Leader – Michael Fullan
Relentless instructional focus
Leadership depth
Capacity building
Data Driven
Define closing the gap as the goal
Attend to the basics
Tap into people’s dignity
Be sure the best people are working on it
All successful strategies are socially based
Stay the course through continuity
Build internal accountability
Establish conditions for the evolution of positive pressure
Use the previous 9 strategies to build public confidence
Effective leaders are energizing – not just innovative
Recognize you are dealing with well-qualified and well-educated group of folks that deserve to be treated like mature adults
Don’t be afraid to compliment people for their efforts
Keep your ego in check
The term ‘principal’ used to mean ‘principal teacher’. Try remembering what it was like to be a classroom teacher.
Never use your authority to threaten, intimidate, or demean.
Lead the school with moral conviction.
Be humble.

If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat Students – Neila Connors
1. Care and be concerned for others
2. Desire to be successful
3. Handle stress
4. Be in good health
5. Think logically

Leadertalk Blog
One can’t overemphasize the value of building relationships with colleagues
Taking notes makes a difference – simply ask to take notes during a conversation
If you don’t know something don’t try to fake it
Roles and value are not the same. We may have different roles but doesn’t mean we have different worth.

LeaderTalk Blogger’s Advice for New Administrators
I will do it. Volunteer to do just about anything
Tackle a major project
Get involved at the District/State level
Understand your School’s and District’s priorities
Model online collaboration and enabling others
“Staff your weaknesses” John Maxwell

National Ed Tech Plan
“For educators to get the most from the rapidly evolving development of information and communication technology, leaders at every level; must not only supervise, but provide informed, creative, and ultimately transformative leadership for systemic change.”

There isn’t much to argue with in all this advice. It’s like ‘mom and apple pie’.

The problem is, even if you memorized every one of these points, even if you discussed them for hours with other prospective leaders, even if you wrote essays about them and gained a deep understanding of their meaning; it would not make you a better leader.

Knowing the elements of leadership is not the same as embodying the elements of leadership.

There are no shortcuts.

For example, (and this applies to most of the items on the lists above) knowing that you should be ‘humble’ does not make you humble. If, in fact, you are not humble, you won’t become humble by just ‘wanting’ to be humble. The insight itself isn’t enough to change a lifetime of behaviors make up the person you are. Embodying what it is to be humble takes a serious commitment to personal change. Personal change comes through ongoing reflection and daily practices.

I’ll never forget the Principal who raised his hand during one of my sessions and proclaimed emphatically,

“I already know about leadership!”

I’m sure he could recite the “7 Habits” or the “6 Secrets”; but as the rest of the class looked at him, it was clear that his leadership journey was going to be a very long one.