Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

I’ve been reading Michael Fullan’s, The Moral Imperative Realized.

Fullan states in the Preface that, “the moral imperative focuses on raising the bar and closing the gap in student learning and achievement for all children regardless of background.” He later explains that the success of principals and the success of the district are “closely intertwined,” and that, “the success of peers among peers is crucial.”

In the first chapter, Fullan outlines the six basics needed to make the moral imperative a strategy:

      1. Make a personal commitment
      2. Build relationships
      3. Focus on implementation
      4. Develop the collaborative
      5. Connect to the outside
      6. Be relentless (and divert distracters)

“Build Relationships” speaks to me. I have always believed that a leader’s greatest influence comes more from relationships than position. However, what I often witness and experience suggests that not all agree, especially when subject to the airs some carry with position. Position does not make a person suddenly superior or smarter. That person just has power and sometimes a higher salary.

Some of the statements from this section of Fullan’s book that stand out include:

“…emotional intelligence is building a relationship with someone you don’t like, and who doesn’t like you.”

“If you are to have any chance of progressing, you have to have enough empathy for their situation so that you can relate to them.”

“…you will need to build relationships with diverse people.”

“…if you want to challenge someone to do better, you’d better build a relationship first.”

“It is impressive because you understand their perspective even if it is not yours.”

Fullan references Yarrow (2009), in State of Mind: America’s Teaching Corps, who found that teachers in the US at the time could be categorized into 3 groups:

Disheartened (40%)

Idealists (23%)

Contented (37%)

Fullan contends that the principal must relate to all three groups. In order to accomplish results, the essence of the mindset for the moral imperative includes:

    1. Leaders facing terrible situations will have to lead with respect. Put differently, they will have to convey respect before people have earned it.
    2. Leaders need to do everything possible to create conditions that make people lovable (mainly by creating circumstances that favor success).
    3. And then leaders must deal firmly with what’s left over.

I believe that this applies to all leaders in education – senior administrators, district staff, school administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and parents. I wonder how often some leaders skip to #3, without considering #1 and #2, as if everyone are the “left overs.”

Far too often we encounter the sense of superiority or disdain one group, or individual, has for another, whether it be senior administrators and district staff towards school administrators, school administrators towards teaching or support staff, teachers towards support staff or students, parents towards school administration or staff, leaders in one school towards the leaders in another, experienced teachers towards younger teachers, union towards employer, etc. Sometimes feelings and behaviours are overt. Sometimes there are attempts to keep them in check, but often still come out in body language or tone of voice.

We need to move beyond any airs of superiority we may have, and focus on improving relationships. Yes, the design of our educational organizations is hierarchical, but we each must continue to grow our relationships in working together to ultimately improve the work we do with students.

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