Blog Post Category: leadership

6/29/2016

GUEST BLOG: Leaders Ring for Freedom - Dr. Neil Gupta, Worthington City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

bell.jpgIn August of 1752, the bell arrived in Philadelphia.  Cast from London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, it weighed 2,080 pounds and measured 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet from lip to crown.  The original bell cracked, so it was recast twice with more copper to get a better sound and durability.  What a great history and symbol of freedom that is contained in the Liberty Bell!

The bell tolled at the passing of notable heroes, such as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.  Contrary to belief, it did not ring when the Declaration of Independence was first presented.  There were many speculations, stories, and rumors on the various cracks to the bell: its first ring, during a visit from a Revolutionary War hero, while tolling to signal a fire, and during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall.

As educational leaders, it is fitting for us to take this time the next few weeks to celebrate our freedoms from a national level as well as allowing it to invoke a similar spirit in reflecting on the powerful freedoms we possess as leaders.  Just as the Liberty Bell symbolizes the ringing of freedom, look at these “Five Freedoms We Can Ring as Leaders”:

#1 Ring for Freedom to Question

As leaders, we need to invoke our rights with freedom to question.  With limited resources, leaders don’t have time to waste implementing initiatives without support.  Leadership is not about surrounding yourself with “yes” people.  Leaders need to form an environment for teams to collaborate and question the need, process, and outcomes.  If you aren’t hearing questions or getting challenged by others, see if you are creating the proper environment for feedback to be freely given.  There’s a way to question without being disrespectful in a healthy way.  Questioning makes the team better; it reminds us that it isn’t about us.  And, it allows for the best idea to come from the collective ideas from the team.

#2 Ring for Freedom to Explore

Leaders need the freedom to explore.  Exploration provide leaders with opportunities to innovate, seek out others, and try new things.  Conferences and EdCamps are a wonderful way to learn from others.  Not just students, but adults need passion projects also as a chance to learn and grow.  Leaders should always be ready to name new initiatives or ideas they are pursuing as well as creating an environment for others to explore themselves.  Exploration provides leaders and their team with an opportunity to innovate, rejuvenate, and reflect.

#3 Ring for Freedom to Choose

I’ve been most impressed with the leaders and vision at Worthington City School District in their ability to foster choice for students to learn in many different environments and forum.  While choice brings about challenges of their own, it is refreshing to allow students and adults opportunities to reach goals in different ways that foster a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all world.  Are you really locked in to one method?  Should there be just one “right” path?  The inception of personalized professional development only fosters the notion that people have unique needs and wants, and leaders need to foster their choice.

#4 Ring for Freedom to Have Fun

At times, I have felt guilty for laughing while a work.  It seems taboo and actually strange at times.  I have worked in many places with people I only associated with at work.  Yet, this past year, I began working in a district with people I actually like! While the work is definitely hard to provide leadership and support in growing all students in a safe manner, this has been a first to be part of a team that fosters trust and true relationships.  I severely underestimated the amount of work that can be done with positive relationships, trust, and team-building to have fun.  Does you build your team by celebrating successes for individuals and the team.  Leaders freely build in opportunities for the team to celebrate and have fun!

#5 Ring for Freedom to Unfriend

For many leaders, it’s in their nature to lead with the desire to make everyone like them.  Yet, real leaders may have to make decisions that aren’t well liked by everyone.  While some people may be happy, they may understand the other perspective and reasons for the decision.  Yet, there are people that continue to disrupt, create hurdles, or are even downright nasty.  Yet, still some leaders feel the need to continue trying to reach out and maintain a relationship.  To a certain point, all leaders need to try to mend relationships; but, it may not always be the case.  Leaders need to ensure they are able to stay positive and lead for a marathon race, so it may be necessary to “unfriend” negative people.  There’s much freedom in this, and it isn’t a sign of poor leadership or responsibility – there comes a time when leaders need to focus on the willing and keep moving forward.

Your Calling

There’s an inscription on the Liberty Bell that reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).  This is a calling to all of us, including leaders, to not only be free but foster it within others.  So, as you reflect on the five rings above, I ask you to proclaim your “freedom ring” in the comments below – what is it you want to “Ring for Freedom” as you prepare for the next school year?

Dr. Neil Gupta is director of secondary education for Worthington City Schools. This post originally appeared on his blog on June 27, 2016. You can learn more about Dr. Gupta by clicking here.

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6/29/2017

Learn from Everything: A Conversation with Leadership Expert Mark Sanborn

By: Steve Gratz

ThinkstockPhotos-518815488-1.jpgLeadership is key in business and in education. Those of us in education understand the critical importance of the education leader in every school district and school building. While contemplating this blog post, I wanted to focus on the importance of leadership regardless of the industry and your position within that industry. As a result, I decided to reach out to my friend and leadership guru, Mark Sanborn, and ask him a few questions.

Mark and I have been friends since the 1970s and lived together as members of Alpha Zeta fraternity at The Ohio State University. Today, Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. You can learn more about Mark at his website.

During my career, I have had the opportunity to be a personal coach to more than 200 individuals. A vast majority of these individuals have gone on to secure leadership positions, not only in education but also in industry. With the shared passion for leadership, I decided to ask Mark a series of questions on being a leader and leadership. Although the questions I asked Mark are fairly broad, they are transferable to those of us in education.

1. If you were beginning a career today or were still early in your career, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to those in that stage of life today?
Happily, I wouldn’t do anything differently. My strategy those many years ago is valid today: try lots of things. Get as much diverse experience as possible. More often than not, we find our true calling through experience — trial and error — rather than contemplation. You don’t find out which foods you like by thinking about them but by trying them. The same is true with career strengths, likes and dislikes.

2. What is the greatest change you've seen in the workplace since you began your career? Does that change the way you lead today? If so, how? 
The greatest change is the complexity of business and life. We’ve always faced change and challenge, but technology has been one of many factors that has dramatically increased complexity. We are deluged with information. Nobody can know everything there is to know nor even hope to keep completely up to date. That means leaders need a carefully designed learning strategy that includes trusted experts and sources to help fill in the blanks, the things we don’t know.

3. What three words might people use to describe you as a leader? 
The more accurate answer would come from those who have experienced my leadership, but based on feedback I’ve gotten, those descriptors would include erudite, intense and funny. I invest much time in thinking and learning (hence erudite). I’m very focused on what’s important (hence intense). People who don’t know me well would be surprised to find I’m a prankster who finds the humor in almost everything (hence funny).

4. You seem to write a lot about your experiences with others and what you learn from them, such as you did in “The Fred Factor.” What would you hope people most learn from you and your work?
I hope people learn how they can learn from everything they do and observe. That’s how I was able to extract good ideas and lessons from my encounters with my postal carrier Fred Shea. G.K. Chesterton said, “The world will never lack for wonders, only wonder.” If we stay interested, curious and engaged with life, we can keep continually learning and growing.

5. What is the hardest thing you have to do as a leader? What have you learned that has helped you in this area? 
One of the hardest things I’ve done as a leader is let an employee go who was a good person and conscientious employee but not the right fit for the job. The person didn’t have the skills or demeanor to succeed in the role that was required. Employers and employees need to recognize that all jobs are role specific, and being good isn’t enough if the employee isn’t the right person for the job. I’ve learned the importance of clarifying what is needed in a position and to determine if a possible candidate is just a good employee or the right employee for the job.

6. What one business or leadership book would you recommend to young leaders, besides one of your own, to help them in their leadership?
There are many excellent books on leadership, but I’d suggest “Good to Great,” because Jim Collins does a great job of showing how the leadership piece fits into the bigger organizational puzzle. I like his take on Level 5 Leaders and that his book is based on quantitative research.

7. What motivates you personally to get up in the morning? What is it that keeps you pushing for more personally or professionally? How do you continue to find inspiration in life? 
For me, it comes down to faith, family and friends. Those three aren’t the icing on the cake — they are the cake. If you are clear in your beliefs and care for the relationships that matter, the rest follows. After that, I am about combining purpose and profit. Making money is easy, but making money by being of larger service and benefiting others is a blessing. I feel fortunate in my work to be able to do both.

I encourage you to reflect on the questions I asked Mark and think about how you would respond to the questions. This would be a great activity to share with other school leaders in your district.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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Last Modified: 6/1/2016 4:16:44 PM