In response to the 9/12/12 post, “Happy and Thriving,” a long time LYSer writes:

SC,

I have certainly seen school leaders use poor methods when dealing with teachers that could be characterized as fear and intimidation.  Clearly, I believe the more appropriate method of dealing with employees is one of coaching, cooperation, and mentoring.  However, that is not to say there is no accountability on the individual level, and sometimes those types of individual conversations can cause fear and intimidation.  In those one on one accountability conversations principals should keep that in mind and refocus their leadership approach on coaching and cooperation.

Having said that, I like Gilbert’s article and think it has application for schools. BUT, I would caution novice leaders that in the end, every business must focus on the bottom line.  As a Harvard professor Gilbert surely knows it doesn’t matter if every employee is ecstatically happy if the business is going bankrupt.  The same is true in public education.

In schools our bottom line is student achievement.  Certainly I think principals should strive to create an environment that is positive and cooperative, but at the same time positive and cooperative adults are useless if the needs of children are not being satisfied.  If teachers are happy but are engaging in poor instructional practices, they most certainly will not be happy when a principal insists teachers adhere to research based best instructional practices.  You can be assured of that.  So I would say focus on the bottom line first while keeping an eye on the happy/thriving meter.  

If your bottom line is bottoming out and teachers are happy, the principal has a problem to take care of.  If the principal refuses to focus on the bottom line first and in the process (in a coaching and cooperative manner) help teachers grow to help support the bottom line, then the superintendent has a problem.  If the superintendent refuses to make sure principals are focusing on the bottom line first, then the school board has a problem.  

Of course as an old school LYS principal you already know these things.  I am just attempting to put the cited article into the LYS context for those who may be new to our LYS Nation.

SC Response

What we have to remind ourselves of is that leadership is situational.  What would be the perfect practice/style in emergency and crisis situations often borders on leadership malpractice in sustaining and capacity building situations. But the opposite is also true.  What is interesting is that I have observed that emergency and crisis leaders have a better understanding of this than leaders who have always worked where the grass is greener.

What is clear is that we must to talk to our staff, constantly.  The more those conversations are focused on work, practices, solutions and results, the less the staff that remains will fear them. The reason why I mention “the staff that remains,” is that there are some in our profession that abhor such conversations and will self-select to find a campus with a principal with a less results centered leadership style.

Finally, we cannot ignore the teachings of E. Don Brown.   He reminds us that the focus of the school rests solely on the shoulders on the principal.  Only the principal is in a position to keep the organization student focused.  Every other group and/or position in education will at some point sacrifice the needs of students for a more adult centered agenda.  That is not an indictment, it is a statement of fact.  I have found that the schools that recognize this and act accordingly, seem to develop the most collegial work environments.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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