Two blogs caught my attention in the past couple of days as they make critical comments on the role of leaders in evolving knowledge-based organizations. Both created in my mind the image of learner-leader as perfect for the future of educational leadership. NAIS President Pat Bassett asks the question: Do Leaders Matter? citing studies and arguing that often we attribute success to outcomes that are functions of either luck or our insatiable desire to believe that good things come from those with vision.
Peter Bergman writing in the Harvard Business Review tells a story of becoming lost with a group of students. He argues that leadership requires us to “endure uncertainty and ambiguity”; “move through shame, embarrassment, anxiety, and fear”; “move foreword even without the answers”; and “feel awkward and uncertain without giving up”. This story, which I presume to be true, is almost exactly like one I made up for the chapter on problem solving in The Falconer. My mythical teacher and students get lost, and the leader-teacher uses the opportunity to grow the skills of his students to think and work their way out of the problem.
Both writers have clearly keyed in on the fundamental difference between Management 1.0 and Management 2.0: the existential need for leaders to lead more by leading less. Yes, leadership really does matter, but leaders have to distribute responsibilities, authorities, and leadership DNA out into the organization in ways that are completely different than in the past. They have to lead the organization to become better at learning on the fly. The role of visionary leader standing at the base of the mountain pointing a single way forward for all to charge up is not possible when the path ahead is unclear. We are at that time in knowledge-based organizations when the speed of change is so great that pathways can shift in real time.
In these conditions, traditional school leaders feel they are not doing their job; boards don’t know how to assess the head or principal; employees are uncomfortable with new structures of change and management. Management 1.0 is about command and control, with a strong general leading in a specific direction. Management 2.0 is about leaders allowing, in fact demanding, that others lead in diverse directions within an overall set of boundary conditions that represent the broad institutional mission.
This is one of the absolute key mechanical structures that we have to push on NOW if we want schools to act more nimbly on the path to true innovation. Lacking the distributed model of leadership that is key to Management 2.0, we fail to innovate. There is another HUGE positive here for schools: mentoring others to push out along innovative, diverse pathways is exactly what we want to model for our students. In this way, we get to share right along with those we are developing as the next generation of learner-leaders.