May 12, 2021

There are things in life that are simple, and there are things in life that are complicated. Leaders who have a clear understanding of their vision and purpose, coupled with strong personal, professional, and leadership goals find that simplicity is prevalent.

For example, suppose you are a leader of a school district and a vendor comes to you with the latest, wiz-bangy gadget. In that case, you can easily discern the value of the product by asking yourself if it helps further the non-negotiable goals for your school, along with your own personal, professional, and leadership goals.

This makes decision-making simple. Now, the interesting part comes into play. The implementation of the decision can be complicated. So, think about this.

There is a lot of linear thinking in education. “If you do A, then B will happen.”

                                             A   B

So, the thinking goes, if you give a student a test at “A,” then you will measure what they learn at “B.” Easy, linear thinking.

Another example. Teachers must be given an assignment after a faculty meeting to show they are paying attention to “A,” resulting in more engaged teachers and high fidelity of implementing programs at “B.”

Simple. Easy. Let’s pat ourselves on the back for a great plan!

Not so quick.

Here is what happens in the real world.

There is unpredictability in the world that influences the relationship between “A” and “B.” That unpredictability is what makes leadership complicated. Trying to figure out what the actual effect of a decision will be is what separates good leaders from great leaders.

3 Things You Can Do Lessen Complicated Situations

Three things you can do to help narrow the possible effects of decisions after they go through the real world.

  • Communicate. Don’t just communicate for the sake of communication. Communicate with the goal of understanding the context in which you are making a decision. What are the motivations of the people involved? What are the perverse incentives that might derail your true objective?
  • Share. Share how the decision is leading to the larger goals of the organization. Be clear. Be concise. Be transparent.
  • Understand Systems. The systems and processes in place in your organization encourage certain behavior. Do your systems encourage the type of behavior needed to successfully implement your decision? For example, why do you require “homework” after a faculty meeting? If you have a compliance system in place, your goal of implementation with fidelity will not occur because your system encourages strict compliance.

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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