In response to the post, “Fear,” a reader writes:

“I couldn’t agree more! Douglas Reeves recently authored a book called, Leading Change in Your School. In the book, he discusses something related to this topic with regards to the implementation process.

There are times when tough decisions need to be made for the benefit of students and their learning. These changes may even involve systematic alterations that can positively impact the overall instructional quality of a school’s program. Some principals may hesitate in taking action out of fear that their staff will reject the change or push back in a negative way.

The reality is that principals who are imprisoned by this type of fear will never be able to reach the levels of high student achievement that are possible. We know that success breeds success. Rather than fearing staff response, teachers need to be part of the decision-making process and their input should be solicited and seriously considered. They also need and deserve to understand the changes and how the changes will impact the organization in a positive way.

However, waiting out of fear to ensure that ALL teachers “buy in” prior to implementation, will often result in the change never being implemented. Reeves encourages principals to take the plunge and implement. The positive results that will be generated from the changes will actually create the deep level of “buy in” sought for and it will then be deep enough to facilitate the sustainability needed to impact student achievement.

Educators want to win. When something works for kids, we use it. By not allowing fear to tie your hands and by being committed to action that is student centered, you as a principal are in the position to impact academic achievement in a positive way.”

SC Response
Overall, an excellent and well reasoned comment. There are three quick points that I want to add.

First, as a leader, you have the ability to metaphorically step on either the gas or the brake. Depending on the situation, either response could be correct. However, as Brezina wrote, just make sure that if you find your foot on the brakes, it is a prudent action, not a fearful one. As a quick aside, with many high performance machines, speed actually creates a safer operating environment. For example, the faster you drive a Formula One race car, the safer it becomes. The rookie driver that still instinctively slows down when faced with difficultly, actually increases the danger to him and other drivers.

Second, if you are waiting for the masses to sing “Kumbayah” and demand that you let them change for the better, you should use the wait time to polish up your resume. Initial change requires LEADership, not WAITership.

Third, there is a world of difference between wanting to win and working to win. Everybody wants to win; few are willing to work at it. Even fewer are willing to do that work, completely on their own. The job of leadership is to create a system where we don’t have the option of not working everyday to win. That is the bleeding edge of change and where the conflict starts. Most people want the option of defining “work” and “win” for themselves and most organizations let them. With great leaders and great organizations these definitions are concrete and non-negotiable. In the attempted evolution from ordinary to great, those who don’t want these definitions defined, fight, pout, and sabotage. They will lose and eventually leave, or they will win and stop the evolution. Realize, if they win, your students lose. Viva la Evolution!

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…