Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious -- but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

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Feb 25, 2005

Level 5 Leadership in The Carnival Of Education

I HAVE BEEN MEANING to post something about this week's Carnival of Education courtesy of EdWonks.  Educators and education bloggers are very interesting to listen to from the perspective of leadership.

You'd expect there to be a tremendous number of examples of Level 5 leadership by teachers in our schools.  After all, teachers are bright, caring people who have given up bigger salaries as physicians or attorneys simply because they want to continue learning and because they place great importance on the success of future generations.  These traits in essence define Level 5 leadership.

So then looking at education worldwide, why don't our schools perform "three-times better than the market for fifteen years" like Jim Collins' eleven "great" Level 5 companies?

The fact is, there are no Level 5 leaders in our schools.  If you do not yet see this, try attending your local school-board meeting and listen to the petty complaints coming from all sides of the table.

If there are no longer any level 5 leaders in our schools, where did they all go?  For we watched many level 5-quality teachers go in.  We even personally know some of them to take active rolls in furthering people's progress.  But they don't seem to make it back out of the system intact as level-5 leaders in a teaching capacity.  Witness aschoolyardblog's friend Ted or her neighbor.  Where is the trap door in this black-box school system that lets the Level 5 leadership escape?  The most obvious answer is that leadership drowns in the bureaucracy and office politics of a government system.  But there is better answer.

School Teachers do not truly have level-5-ness to begin with.  Leadership in its true form requires liability.  Otherwise, what does it matter which path you take or how far you get?  Without risk, there are no leaders.

And our school system has been cultured and legislated to be the epitome of a risk-free system.  Inside the school system, school teachers aren't decision makers, they are decision takers.  School-teacher qua decision-taker can never be a true leader of students since there is no risk or measure for failing.

How can we establish risk for a school teacher and help them become leaders again?  Financial liability, "pay for performance," is one way, but not a very good way.  School systems can learn from businesses, but they are not businesses themselves.  It is not desirable to have school teachers acting like salespeople hunting a commission.

Rather than a salesperson, a school teacher is more like a managing stock-holder.  They hold stock in the community, the city, the state, the country, and the World.  We all hold that stock, and designate teachers to manage it.  This is precisely what people like Jim Lileks have in mind when they say that a school should be "bonded with the neighborhood."  By educating ourselves, we are purchasing stock in an organization of juxtaposed communities that provide security-in and meaning-to Life.

Our stock values increase as our fellow communities respect us more.  Our responsibility as stock-holders is to leverage a teacher's respect to create risk and establish more value.  We do not need to threaten to take away their food or shelter lest they act like salespeople.  The only real risk a teacher can have is losing his or her Credibility -- losing hard-earned respect from students, administrators, parents, citizens and nations.

There will be no change in the quality of public education until school teachers teach like they will lose the World's respect should they fail, and have nobody else to blame but themselves.  We can write legislation, standards, metrics, paradigms, programs, tests, anything you want.  But we will see no change until our teachers lead, until they lead as well as they know they can and perhaps at one time did.  If we want to improve our schools, we need teachers to teach Level-5 leadership by example, and be greatly rewarded for doing so.

So go now, read the Carnival of Education and look for school teachers who are struggling to spring from the administrative muck of honor-less unaccountability.  Do not lament them or the immutable mandatory referendums that keep them in a risk-free government system.  Pull them out, rinse them off, and help them teach more effectively in another capacity!

posted at 01:48 AM by Chris Chew in Education


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