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  • Why is Good Leadership Important?

    As we continue our discussion of leadership, it is important to remember why leadership is important. If we look at the work of Jim Collins who authored Built to Last and Good to Great as well as other books, we see exhaustive studies that support the impact leadership has on company performance. Collins’ team studied companies that outperformed the general market for fifteen years consecutive years. He then translated the research into a monograph entitled Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

    If one does an Internet search for “leadership books,” hundreds or even thousands of titles turn up. The authors represent nearly every type of industry and span thousands of years if one considers The Art of War a treatise on leadership. The authors also represent nearly every walk of life from the clergy to comedians and from mighty industry titans to mythical figures such as Santa Clause.

    When I review these works, I return to the question “why is leadership important” or more specifically, why is good leadership important? I believe the evidence is clear that good leadership affects the entire organization in very positive ways. Of course, a leader must help to define a clear mission for the organization. However, they must not be so focused on what to do to achieve the agreed upon goals that they must also focus on what not to do and what to stop doing in order to achieve those goals. One simple example is the implementation of the AchieveNJ process.

    Clearly, school leaders had no choice whether to operationalize the law and regulation. (I am ignoring the little flexibility allowed by the waiver process.) However, we did and still do have the choice as to giving in to the media hype surrounding “bad teachers” and “failing schools” or using language to promote continuous improvement. We do have the choice as to looking at the evaluation process as a method for catching teachers doing bad things or use it to catch teachers doing good things. And once we do, we need to celebrate it. I try to “catch” somebody doing something good in my buildings every day and then praise it in some way.

    School leaders need to put the needs of the organization and the students we serve above all else. Collins identifies five different types of leaders - Level 1 is the Highly Capable Individual, Level 2 is the Contributing Team Member, Level 3 is the Competent Manager, Level 4 is the Effective Leader and the highest is Level 5 who is the executive that embodies the previous four with one additional factor.

    “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company (or school). It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not for themselves.” Collins, Good to Great, page 31.

    Every good educational leader embodies these qualities. As an Association and as individuals, we need to cultivate those qualities in the next batch of leaders. We need to communicate “One Vision – One Voice.”