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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Critical Shortage of Leadership

by AJ

We are beset by an oversupply of "managers" but a critical dearth of leaders.

Managers-- I am absolutely sick of them. Managers live by the credo, "Catch them doing something wrong". Managers crave control and order. In education, in business, we are inundated with managers.

Managers are demoralizers. The teacher-as-manager loves to correct mistakes. They look at the best student and class and focus on what's wrong. Managers squash passion. Kill enthusiasm. Their usual results are to irritate, anger, or intimidate those who they manage.

These are the directors who drive away the best teachers while retaining the cover-your-ass clock punchers. These are the coaches who alienate their top performers. These are the teachers who undermine their confident students.

I am simply AMAZED by the poor skills of most managers-- the bulk of whom are nice people who nevertheless sabotage excellence... and make the extraordinary impossible.

We need leaders. Leaders inspire folks to do the impossible. They fire enthusiasm. They build confidence. They mobilize energy. They transform. Leaders focus not on controlling people-- but on unleashing their potential.

Leaders make the extraordinary seem easy to accomplish. While managers typically create resistance and resentment.. leaders inspire action.

There are a great many books written on the subject of leadership-- and no doubt there are many many variables.

But if I had to choose one bedrock leadership principle, it would be this:

CATCH PEOPLE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT

Its really not that difficult-- yet the results are absolutely astounding. Most people are so used to suffering through crappy management that they will respond dramatically to even a hint of leadership.

I find it both heart breaking and thrilling. Heartbreaking to realize how much potential is crushed by critical managers. Thrilling to see the joy, enthusiasm, and energy unleashed by just a little bit of positive leadership.

As a super-simple primer on leadership, I recommend Ken Blanchard's "The One Minute Manager". Yes, its super simplified. But its a classic that captures the core essence.

Its central message: Catch people doing something right.

Try it with your students. With your teachers. In all your relationships.

San Francisco, CA

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