On-going Professional Development and the Book List

I had an LYS principal call me last week with a question and a request. The question was this: “What should I be doing to prepare myself for my next job, in terms of professional development?” This is an excellent question. I told him that there are a couple of things he should be doing. First, he should focus on ensuring that his campus is working everyday to maximize student performance (Check – Middle School, Exemplary without TPM). Second, he should begin attending the state and national principal conferences and also the state and national school administrator conferences (TASA and AASA). These conferences attract excellent speakers and have numerous sessions devoted to current issues and education. Finally, he should add a measure of discipline and focus to his reading. Spend less time on fiction and devote more time reading about instruction, leadership and organizations. I told him by doing this, he would begin to separate himself from the pack during the interview process. As for his request, he asked for the list of ten books I recommend to school leaders. So here is the list again, just in time for your holiday reading: The First Five1. Results Now, by Mike Schmoker. This book sets the tone. If on the whole you disagree with what Mike writes in this book, you are going to disagree with LYS (the Organization and probably the Nation).2. Corp Business, by David H. Freedman. The book I made every new AP I hired read. I have yet to find a book that does a better job of laying out the actionable ABC’s of leading people in the field.3. Good to Great, by Jim Collins. There are hedgehogs and foxes. Reject your fox instincts and embrace your inner hedgehog.4. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. The primer on the power of the few. Those who question the power of the LYS Nation just don’t recognize the implication of a network of the best Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople in our field.5. Classroom Instruction That Works, by Robert Marzano. The final word on the research that proves the effect of best practice. This book is so critical to our profession that if you haven’t read it yet, you don’t deserve a seat at the table when the discussion turns to instruction. The Best of the Rest (6-10)6. The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, by Michael Fullan. You actually should read everything that Fullan writes, but if time is a factor, this is the one to start with. I do have one small problem with Fullan. He’s too smart. He understands the nuances that drive expert leadership and does a world class job of explaining this (perhaps better than anyone). Unfortunately, the smart/lazy manager type can use Fullan as justification for their repeatedly inane actions (or inaction).7. How the Mighty Fall, by Jim Collins. Yes, it is a business book, but Collins lays out the doom loop that district after district is currently stuck in. Fortunately, he tells us how to get out of the loop and even prevent it. Unfortunately, most senior leadership doesn’t care and isn’t listening.8. Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson, M.D. The modern classic. I only appreciated it after I read it the second time. First, you have to have tried to manage significant organizational change and made a mess of it; than you are ready understand what Dr. Johnson is really teaching us.9. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell. Maxwell is a former pastor. He writes about church leadership. In many ways, church leadership is a better model for school leaders than business leadership. Violate the Irrefutable Laws at the peril of your organization and you career.10. Slot number ten is filled by a number of books, that depending on my mood, interest, or need of the person I’m working with, that I might recommend. Some of those books include:33 Strategies of War, by Robert Greene for strategic and tactical planning.The Federalist Papers, by Hamilton, Madison and Jay. If you are trying to lead an organization of more than three people who have competing self-interests, you might find this worth reading.It’s Called Work for a Reason, by Larry Wingate. Admittedly a pulp book. But sometimes we have to get over ourselves, cut thru the BS and admit that we had a job to do and how hard we tried doesn’t matter if we’re not successful. Just looking at the title ought to give you a little boost when the going gets tough.His Excellency, by Joseph J. Ellis. Think you have leadership all figured out? If this study of George Washington doesn’t convince otherwise, you must be pretty darn good. Think. Work. Achieve.Your turn…

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