Practicing Discomfort

The best ideas and ambitions of leaders often get caught in the net of managing the happiness of an organization. Pursuing a healthy culture doesn't always made pursuing a happy culture as a happy culture is bathed in first order change.


Many new leaders, with fresh eyes on an organization, can see many of the structures that have been weighing down a tribe. In schools, this can be the master schedule, the bells, the lunch procedures, how students enter and exit the building, rules about taking time off, and other daily and annual rituals. Though having student-focused solutions to all of these is important to the culture, these types of change are both time leeching and filled with lots of opportunities for positive feedback both internally and externally, a feedback loop that stunts the desire to push to the next level. 


How do we avoid the trap of these feedback loops? How do we begin leading and not managing from the beginning? How do we begin to create discomfort in an organization without getting everyone bent out of shape? What questions can we ask that pique thought? What ideas can we consider as a community of learning that will truly push us to a new level? 


Consider these three things. First, level with those you are leading. Let me know that you want a healthy culture because it creates a deeply

happy culture. Also explain that a surface happy organization isn't a healthy one. Second, lead through questions. Solution making, the type of sustainable solution making necessary for excellent organizations, doesn't come from pondering questions with easy solutions. Third, make sure that every day everyone in the organization hears you lead out loud about the things that really matter. Beyond talking about copiers and recess duty, they need to hear about authentic learning and genuine care for the whole child. They need to hear about partnerships that support the school and integrating fresh resources into tired curriculums. 


I worry that great leaders are destined to manage. The trap is wide, and the path to success is narrow.