Friday, July 20, 2012

Ignorance, the Secret Leadership Weapon

Being immersed in the Twitter universe for the last two months has made me realize just how much more I have to learn. This epiphany has generated a major desire for my own personal learning and growth more than any learning experience that I've ever had. In my own reflection, I have come to the conclusion that in order to be the ultimate leader, you must identify and utilize your secret weapon, your own IGNORANCE.

Let's be clear before I continue. Ignorance and stupidity are two totally different things. Let's define both:

Stupidity - n. the state of mental dullness.

Ignorance - n. the state of lacking knowledge or learning.

Many people use these terms interchangeably, but if you synthesize these two typically condescending terms, they are vastly different. I constantly want to become a better leader, but if that is to a occur, I must be a constant and continuous learner.

Seek out What You Don't Know
Bosses think they must be the supreme knower of all things in order to manage effectively.  This philosophy generally results in decision-making that creates organizational ineffectiveness.  True leaders yearn to learn more about all things in order to best guide the organization toward higher performance. This year I have challenged myself to learn more about balanced literacy and writing, and the method that works best for me is taking what I learn on my own and deepen my knowledge through conversations with teachers, central office leaders, and other literacy leaders about the various components. I use the questions that are still fuzzy in my mind to see how these people view and implement balanced literacy.  By seeking a better understanding through communication, I can make more efficient and effective decisions.

Eliminate your Fears
Many leaders won't discuss with others what they don't know because they fear that it will show that they are a weak leader. Actually this thought process is flawed and guarantees ineffective leadership. You can't lead people if you are not interested in learning from them. I want to know more about the craft of elementary instruction, and my background is secondary instruction. I can't just infer what is best practice by only what I see or think.  By showing others what I don't know, I gain a better understanding while building trust with my colleagues.  The by-product of being fearless in my constant learning is that my colleagues will recognize and respect my desire to learn more from them.

Coaching closes your own Learning Gaps
I enjoy using coaching strategies because you ask questions that can guide others to think reflectively about their craft. When some are struggling with a given issue, I jump into coaching mode and ask them reflective questions to guide their own thinking, and this is where I soak in all the information. Questions such as: 'how do you do...' , 'how do you respond to...', 'so what you're saying is...', 'what do you see as ...' help others solve their own problems, but these questions and responses close gaps in my own knowledge.

Reveal your Ignorance to Others
I have no problem saying that I don't know or don't understand something. People look to you to be able to address anything, but you can't possibly know everything. You take your first steps towards true leadership when you can admit that you don't know enough about a given topic to make a decision, but that you want to learn as much as possible so that you can make the best decision for kids, teachers and the campus as a whole.  Revealing this lack of knowledge is an opportunity for you elicits collaborative relationships, creates collective inquiry and ultimately finds the best solution to the problem.  The process of revealing your ignorance closes one more gap in your knowledge while building a stronger and more collaborative culture.

Enthusiasm for Learning More
Ignorance is bliss only if it kindles a fire that makes you want to grow in your learning and your quest to be the best leader for others. Leaders must come to the cold hard reality that the less that they know about effective instruction, best practices, technology or any other instructional idea, the less likely they will effectively lead the organization. The organization thrives on innovative leadership that has a constant passion to learn through collective inquiry. Leaders must model the fire, enthusiasm and passion in their own learning. In the end, you are modeling the mindset needed by all staff members to address their own individual lack of knowledge.

Trust is Built through Collective Inquiry
Collective inquiry is nothing more than identifying your team's collective lack of knowledge (ignorance) and doing something about it. As a leader, you should guide teams to discover the unknown. Next, leaders must empower them to make a plan to learn about the unknown, and finally implement what they have learned. The leader must be current on leading research. Tweeps, and excellent literature can be vital resources to help the team to learn. The more the team learns together, the more trust is solidified. The more trust that is built between you and your teams, the more your leadership is respected.

All this is my secret weapon, and I guess my ignorance is that I'm sharing it with you. In revealing my ignorance, my hope is that I gain more knowledge from you, the reader. To be honest, it would be stupid of me not to share these thoughts with you because not sharing would reveal my own selfishness and insecurity as a leader. Use your ignorance as a starting point to become a better leader and learner, or forever be stuck in your own lack of knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. A very thoughtful and reflective post. Your approach to using "what you don't know" as a vehicle for not only initiating your own professional growth, but more valuably as an empowerment tool for your staff is a tremendous strategy. It is sure to build a deep level of committment to learning throughout your school building.

    I was also intrigued by your comments about being in an elementary setting, but having a secondary background. This reminded me of many conversations that were held in my Educational Leadership program. I will be passing your blog post on to the current members of the program since it is certain to address their concerns about being caught in the same position.

    Good luck continuing to grow your PLN on Twitter and other spaces. Connecting, learning, and sharing with others benefits anyone in a leadership position. Looking forward to reading more from you.