Leading From the Middle

Last year, after returning from the NAIS conference – a fire of optimism was lit. Change can happen and even though I teach at a wonderful school, we can all do better. But the pace of change is overwhelming for many, and for some too slow. Perhaps then, if we take the baby bear approach, change is happening at the right pace.

I wasn’t able to attend the conference this year in DC, and while there’s nothing like really being there, it’s amazing how one can get a flavor of it by reading blogs and tweets of those who attended. Yes, I finally jumped into this century and am using twitter. Like everything, once you find meaning and purpose for a tool, your motivation to learn will grow.

One session I was interested in was Pat Bassett’s “Leading from the Middle” as I have struggled with wanting to be more involved administratively, but would find it difficult to leave the classroom as that’s currently where my true passion lies. He gave this talk as a keynote to the NAIS Diversity Institute last year and included it in his blog.

So how does a leader make high stakes decisions under the gun? Bassett says this:

  • Insisting that the leader communicate clearly the vision and intent and that he or she has “created the conditions for success.”

  • Dealing with mavericks (so they don’t become renegades).

  • Knowing the importance of the “effect” of a leader and his or her strategy to change mutineers into soldiers.

  • Sensing the difference between what’s critical vs. what’s important.

  • Eschewing satisfaction with one great battle victory, in favor of pursuing to conclusion the next engagement to win the war.

  • Figuring out how strongly to challenge your leader, especially when he or she has never been wrong before.

    So how does one lead from the middle?

  • Informational/Expertise Power: Having the knowledge base and using it. (I know I wouldn’t be able to challenge myself and others in curricular decisions if I didn’t keep reading and learning)

  • Interpersonal/Relational Power: This is something I’m great with the kids I teach, but something I am slowly honing with some of the adults I work with. It’s still an area of growth for me.

  • Associative Power: [Great leaders have] a genius for social networking. [They are] connected — (you need to be the maven, connector, and salesperson all rolled into one) – well, I finally gave twitter a try this mid-winter break, and I have to say, if you’re selective in what you follow (for me it’s education related), those connections happen rapidly. Facebook is good for family and friends, but it isn’t as focused on education. I really don’t need everyone to know what I had for lunch today.

  • So, from Pat Bassett’s talk today, here are some things I took away from others attending:

  • It is important to nurture your followers – it’s about the movement, not you
  • Those in the middle must take risks to lead
  • From the middle you must push your leader to communicate clearly
  • “Be bold about what matters most” a quote from Rob Evans via Raventech who shared a lot of what took place at the conference this week. One of the many ways to attend (albeit virtually)
  • By the way, for someone like me, twitter is extremely useful at working on brevity. 140 characters is not a lot. One has to choose one’s words carefully.




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