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from “Good to GREAT”


As I read the text, “Good to Great”

by Jim Collins

I reflected on a few things in my transition to Capital. Collins and his team of researchers identified eleven elite companies that made the leap from good to great. I made a connection to his research and how it applies to educational leadership. The real learning wasn’t what companies are doing to propel them into greatness. The learning came from wondering why education, as a whole, and schools aren’t a beacon for great practice. I will be using this curiosity to guide my beliefs and actions towards educational leadership.

There are a couple of goals that resonated in my mind while looking at Collins’s “Leadership Hierarchy” (see below). He relays that leaders move up and down on this scale during different points in their career. My hope, for myself and for our staff, is that our shared beliefs match our behavior. In efforts to create such an environment and perception, there are a few beliefs I want to commit to acting upon in the leap from good to great.

  • I believe in sustainability. I want to set up our successors for success. Educational leaders (teachers, staff, and admin.) shift, move, and unfortunately, sometimes leave the profession. Systems, as well as school culture and climate, must be greater than the individual leaders. CHS will be a place where leadership doesn’t depend on “a competent leader.”  We are sustainable because leaders throughout are empowered, regardless of the “one-in-charge”.
  • I believe we need to be intentional and model the ways leaders can use the passion and perseverance of others to promote and recognize the resiliency of a great school and its community of learners.
  • I believe in an unwavering resolve, to always do “what’s best for ALL kids.” I am aware of the teetering effect that sometimes puts adults in an uncomfortable, or new spot, where change is inevitable. I will continue to strive to offer supports and make improvements in creating a growth mindset.

Collin’s Hierarchy

  • Level 5 Executive
    • Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
  • Level 4 Effective Leader
    • Catalysis commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and competing vision.
  • Level 3 Competent Manager
    • Organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.
  • Level 2 Contributing team member
    • Contributes individuals’ capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others.
  • Level 1 Highly Capable Individual
    • Makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits.

 Principles that Leap from Good to Great

  • First Who, Then What

Similarly to what is described in the book The Energy Bus, we must get the right people on the bus. This comes in front of vision, strategy, and initiatives. Keeping and hiring individuals with a growth mindset is the most influential thing educational leaders can do to impact our schools. In addition, we need to lead others onto another bus….one that appears to be going in another direction. While transitioning into new leadership, both of those concepts are difficult to accomplish and it takes time. However, we can always put those with shared beliefs about a growth mindset in the driver seat. They are the ones we want giving direction. I’ve caught myself focusing my time in putting out fires and dealing with “energy vampires” in the building! I want to do a better job of focusing on the greatness… promoting and empowering our great leaders!

  • Confront the Brutal Facts

My goal for CHS is to build and maintain a school culture wherein the truth will be heard. It is difficult to make quality decisions without honestly confronting the brutal facts first. It is best to lead with questions, engage dialogue, and investigate without judgment. One of the presenters I listened to this summer referred to this as “getting naked with your data.”  Often times the media demonizes the education profession, in turn teachers, staff, and/or admin will get defensive, feel over worked, and don’t heed to criticism well. I want our teachers to know that we will improve without judging past practices or placing blame. We will choose to celebrate the great things they do on a daily basis for kids. A growth mindset allows for “the power of yet.” Our time should be focused on moving forward and reflecting/learning from experiences.

  • Hedgehog Concept

The hedgehog concept is not a vision or strategy, but rather an understanding.  Great schools find out what they do REALLY well and use this as a catalyst. What is it that CHS does really well? What is it that our students do really well? Let’s find out what each student is passionate about and make sure our organization is prepared to provide opportunities for kids to explore their passions with resiliency and perseverance! In my summer readings, I read that great school leaders often take on new initiatives, by removing  2-3 ineffective and poorly implemented initiatives. As I transition in, I’ll be looking for initiatives that lack substance to remove from our priorities while focusing on what can make us GREAT.

  • A Culture of Discipline

Great school organizations search out opportunities to continue to improve “how they do school?” At the summer PLC institute, I relearned the importance of committing to the PLC model. What is our commitment to our school’s vision and mission? Educators are too comfortable saying, “All Means All”, but what does that look like? At CHS we will be building on the foundational premise that when we say ALL kids, we REALLY mean ALL! In addition to the commitment of “all meaning all,” we will create a school culture where we work together to decide what skills do our departments at CHS agree upon and hold as essential learning.

  • The Flywheel and the Doom Loop

It is typical in education to look for the next best thing.  Often times we want a simple solution to a complex problem. Schools are complex organizations serving even more complex communities.  There is no grand program, no lucky break, no single defining moment.  Moving from good to great is hard work. It is going to take time.  If we move too fast in our implementation of school initiatives, those strategies are doomed to fail.  I want to build a sustainable, predictable pattern of improvement.  A growth mindset is a must!  Just like students, teachers want to know what they have to do and when it’s due. If we are asking our kids to be on a continuous learning cycle, our teachers must embrace this concept as well. We’ll be focusing on continuous learning.


Published inBooksMy Principal RhythmQuality Principal StandardsReflectServeVisionary Leadership

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