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Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Edscape Journey





I had the honor and privilege to attend my second Edscape conference this weekend.  This conference is the homegrown creation of Eric Sheninger which he puts on at his very own New Milford High School.   The conference offered over 60 breakout sessions featuring many people that I read, follow, and look up to in the field of education.  #Satchat kicked off the morning with a hybrid chat session discussing global leadership that began a full hour and a half before the official conference start. 

It is always a surreal experience to meet, listen to, and learn from someone who you have been reading or following for a longtime.  This was certainly the case with this year’s keynote speaker.  Vicki Davis opened the event with a riveting keynote about the one thing we have control over in education (our own actions).  It was a timely reminder as we often get bogged down with everything that is going wrong and everyone that is doing wrong.  We have the unbelievable power each and every day to change our attitude, actions, and outcomes.  My favorite quote of many from Vicki’s keynote was:

“In education we are not working on making copies…. We are creating originals.”

Following the keynote I had the opportunity to present about leading and learning from connections.  I know that I would not have the opportunities that I have if it was not for being a connected educator.  The opportunity to learn and discuss key issues with people across the globe has certainly pushed me to be a better educator.  I always weave the importance of being connected in presentations but this was the first one designated entirely to the topic.  The smartest person in any room is typically the room itself.  This was certainly the case as the group engaged in a variety of topics and discussed how they were working over, around, and through resistance.

My Edscape journey continued through lunch which was in itself an impromptu breakout session as everyone at the table discussed their work, challenges, and recent successes.  These conversations always leave you feeling like you need to step your game up and do even more.  I attended two additional sessions in the afternoon learning more about the home/school connection from Joe Mazza and about creativity and innovation from ErinPaynter.  Both these sessions were full of ideas and questions to push your thinking.

Edscape proved to be an outstanding day of learning and networking for me.  You have to put Edscape on your calendar for next year.  It will be held on October 19, 2013 at New Milford High School.  I guarantee that you will leave energized with the tools necessary to make a difference and the connections needed to push you to the next level.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Compliance is NOT the Same as Engagement

"First I got their ear and then I had their heart." 
Jay Z


Have you ever heard someone go on and on about how engaging a lesson was?  Invariably, they will talk about how everyone was on task and completed the assignment.  I would argue that often times people are confusing compliance with engagement.

Students for the most part sit where they are supposed to sit and do the work they are assigned to do.  I don't worry as much about a student who acts out in class.  I worry far more about the student who sits passively and complies even though the work lacks any type of relevance.

There is a fairly easy way to not use the terms compliance and engagement interchangeably. You simply ban both words from your vocabulary when providing feedback on a lesson or in reflecting on your own lesson.  Feedback should be both descriptive and nonjudgmental.  Simply saying that everyone is engaged falls short of that criteria for effective feedback.

Your challenge...if you choose to accept it... is to remove the word engagement from your vocabulary when describing what you are seeing in a classroom.  Focus on being descriptive and asking questions that foster growth.





Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are You Playing Buzzword Bingo?

Today is Leadership Day 2012.  Amazing leaders from all over the world are contributing to a powerful, dizzying array of posts that you can find here.  For my #LeadershipDay12 I have been thinking a lot about a game that many leaders do not even know they are playing.  The video below best exemplifies the leadership game of "buzzword bingo".


Listen carefully when people speak about the work that they are doing.


  • Are they speaking in a series of code words that ultimately mean very little?  
  • Are they playing buzzword bingo without even knowing it? 

It is easy to fall into this trap since there is always a new word, term, acronym that describes the next greatest thing.   Many leaders are focused on "preparing students for the 21st century" even though we are almost 13 years into the decade.  You will undoubtedly read posts about  #BYOD, #BYOT, or even #BYOB.  You may start the new year with a focus on flipping, a multitude of mobile missions, or even an eye on iPads, iPods, and iTunes U.

The buzzwords mean very little by themselves.  That's why so many reform initiatives or revolutionary ideas fail.  We often never move past the words into the real actions that make a difference.  Leaders must move beyond buzzwords and into the work that really matters.  This work starts by framing the WHY behind your initiatives. 

For Example:
  • Why are we going mobile?  How are we going to do the work?  What do we expect to accomplish?

For #LeadershipDay12 I am challenging all leaders to stop playing buzzword bingo.  Drop the acronyms, forget the new catchphrase and focus on the work that needs to be done.  



Monday, July 23, 2012

What Does Your Room Look Like?


"If you ever find that you're the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room" 
- Austin Kleon

I spent a great deal of my childhood in my room (mostly because I was sent there as a punishment and a few times by choice).  I never really got any smarter in my own room because I was by myself and I also spent most of the time plotting an escape or how to take over the world.  By default I was the smartest, most talented person in the room.  


Now I have the opportunity to work and learn in many different rooms both virtually and face to face.  This opportunity is actually free to all yet still only a small minority choose to take advantage of it.  One of the beautiful things about technology is you are now able to leverage the world as your room.  You can connect, engage, and learn from experts in all fields of study.  You can move from room to room dependent on the topic.  


Right now on  I am intensely learning in rooms focused on #edreform, #leadership, #literacy, and #mlearning.  I am fortunate to learn from and with some of the most talented people in the world who are practitioners and experts in their respective fields.  I am always looking for ways to expand my room and learn from the wisdom of the crowd.  


As soon as you feel you have arrived and you know everything you need to know....It's probably time to go!





Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gaslight Leadership



This morning on my way in to work I noticed that my gaslight was illuminated.  I typically pay little attention to the gas in my car on a day to day basis.  I realized that I had gotten into the dangerous habit of waiting for the gaslight to tell me I needed gas.  

I guess this isn't the worst practice if you are driving in a populated area with gas stations all around.  It is fairly easy to stop once the light comes on and fill up.  

What would happen if you weren't paying attention and the light comes on with no gas stations in sight?  In essence, you would be stranded.  I believe that this waiting for the light to come on phenomenon extends past the gas in your car and into the leadership practices of many.

Many leaders have become heavily reliant on the data that is fed to them while ignoring the critical daily data points along the way.  I receive data reports that are delivered on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis.  This data is important but it has also lead to a gas light approach to leadership. The problem with waiting for data is that it often comes in too late to correct the course, change actions, and make a difference.  

As a leader don't wait for your organization's gaslight to come on before you decide to alter your course.  Focus on your daily practices, conversations, and observations.  Pair this qualitative data with your data reports and you will be far more likely to yield positive results.  It definitely beats being stranded on the side of the road with no gas station in sight.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Leadership Flatline


What would you want a doctor to do if this is what was showing on your monitor at the hospital?
  
Would you want the doctor to keep continuing what they were doing despite the results?

Would you want the doctors to spend their time diagnosing how the flatline was really the patient's fault?

Would you want the doctor to put together a long range plan to begin to get a pulse?

OR

Would you want the doctors to change their current method because of the data on the monitor?

Would you want the doctors to hold themselves personally accountable for changing the results on the monitor?


These questions may sound absurd considering that we are talking about a life or death situation.  You would never want the doctor to behave according to the first set of questions.  

The most effective leaders would not exhibit these behaviors either.  Replace doctor(s) with leader(s) in each of the questions above.   The data would be around the goals of the organization that the leader is in charge of.  How many leaders have you seen behaving according to the first set of questions?  Many organizations are exhibiting flat lines and yet the leader continues to act in the same manner that brought on the failure.

Leaders must lead differently to spike a flat line in data.  How can you as a leader begin to bring your organization back to life?

You may need to grab the paddles...countdown and CLEAR your leadership practices.




Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asking the Right Questions


I am a proponent of a leadership style that involves a great deal of teaching or coaching versus a style that requires telling or directing work.  I have even written about this belief of Teach Don't Tell before.  One of the most effective ways to coach or lead is through the use of questions.

People generally try to provide a response to the questions that you ask.  The validity and reliability of the responses may be subject to question though.  How do you as a leader move people and the organization forward?  It will not be done on

There are many different questioning strategies that leaders can employ.   The easiest strategy is to change the first word in your question.  Most people by nature ask "What" questions.  These questions elicit responses that do not require much critical thinking.  The best shift in questioning will occur when you stop asking "What" and begin asking "Why".  The answers to "Why" questions are often more complex and get to the root of the issue.

Try asking three consecutive "Why" questions to seek a better understanding of a decision or a situation. By the end of the third "Why" you typically reach the core belief or root cause.

"Why" not try it and see if you get different results.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rules to Break: That's How We Have Always Done It


"You are remembered for the rules you break." -Douglas MacArthur  


The MacArthur quote is especially true when you consider leadership.  If you don't break any rules you will continue to do the same things every day.  I thought I'd start a new series about the rules that leaders should be breaking.


The first rule in the series is more of a habit many leaders fall into.  It involves using the phrase "That's how we have always done it."  This is the cornerstone for answers about initiatives, procedures, etc. that do not make any sense.  If you are not convinced, try the following exercise.



  • Pick something in your organization that doesn't make any sense, drives your crazy or gets in the way of the real work.
  • Ask someone who has been in the organization for an extended period of time the following question: Why do we do that anyway?
  • What answer are you likely to get?  The answer will be some variation of, "I'm not sure. That's the way we have always done it."



This is unfortunately also the answer to the most important question (WHY?) we can ask as leaders. These "that is how we have always done it" moments are also the things that are preventing change or improvement in organizations.  As a leader take inventory of all of your "that's how we have always done it" moments.  

  • Can you answer the WHY question about your decisions, initiatives, and changes? 
  • Does the answer to the WHY question actually match up with your stated values and beliefs?



Effective leaders move from "That's How We Have Always Done It" to "This is WHY we are doing it." The WHY must have a strong foundation in order to build an outstanding organization.


There are many other rules that leaders should break.  I'll try to capture more in the coming weeks. In the meantime...


What rules do you think leaders should break?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No One Has the Right To Waste a Minute of A Child's Life



The title of this post is actually a line in an Education Leadership article from ASCD.  I often come back to it as I work in and with schools.  


What would schools be like if we all embodied this concept?  
What if every moment was spent with this mindset?  


In the words of the great Dr.Seuss, "Oh, the places you'll go!"



Monday, March 12, 2012

Million Dollar Meetings and Minimal Results


"Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything."
- John Galbraith


Meetings are looked at as a sign that work is getting done in organizations.  You likely spend a lot of time in "event" meetings where it is scheduled on your calendar as a weekly, biweekly, or monthly event.  Calculate the total salary that is tied up in these meetings.  Now look at the results of these meetings.  Does the investment in time and resources match the outcome or results?  


Sometimes the best decision a leader can make is not to meet.  Take a closer look at your meetings through the lens of the following questions:



  1. Why are we having this meeting?
  2. How will everyone be smarter as a result of this meeting?
  3. What would happen if this meeting did not occur?
  4. Is there a more effective/efficient way to gather and disseminate the information?
  5. Is there an expectation that work occurs outside of these meetings?
  6. How could the time set aside for "event" meetings be better utilized to accomplish organizational goals?

How did you do with your answers?  Are you utilizing your time in a way that matches your stated priorities?  Challenge yourself to rethink and revolutionize your leadership practices by asking questions about everything.  Always start with WHY... Otherwise, you will be going through the motions with little movement to show for it.  

The way we have always done it is probably not the way we need to do it today and is certainly not the way we need to do it tomorrow.

A great resource for revamping your approach to meetings in "Read This Before Our Next Meeting".  It is a quick, insightful read about the modern meeting standard.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Secret Formula to Excellence and Expertise


"Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours."
- Malcolm Gladwell

I was rereading the book Outliers recently and came across the quote above.  There really is no easy road to expertise and excellence.  Many people give up before they can realistically see improvement.   The other scenario is that people get good enough and settle.  Good is often the enemy of great in this scenario.  This is true with piano lessons, diets, and in the workplace.  People are often looking for the secret to greatness.  The secret all starts with your personal passion.  Once you understand that ingredient...the rest of the formula is as follows:



Understanding the formula is not difficult.  Putting the formula into practice is what ultimately separates good from great.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Excellence is Never an Accident

"Excellence is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities."


I was one of the world's biggest Michael Jordan fans growing up.  I even had a life size cut out of him in my classroom when I began my teaching career.  The greatest lesson I learned from following Michael Jordan's career is his pursuit of excellence.  His story is a great example of the quote above.  



Take a moment to think about someone that you feel is the best at what they do.  
Now consider the following questions:

  • What does excellence look like at this person's level?
  • How long has that person been practicing the skills necessary to be excellent?
  • Was that person always great at what they do?
  • What obstacles did they have to overcome to get where they are today?


People do not wake up as a master of their craft.  It was no accident that they became the top person in their respective field.  Thousands of hours of hard work is behind every expert in every field.  This type of deliberate practice is what separates mediocre from magnificent in every arena.  

Now consider the following questions as it relates to what you want to be excellent in:

  • How are you being intentional in both your words and actions?
  • What obstacles are currently keeping you from making progress?
  • How can you turn those obstacles into opportunities?
  • Who is in your starting five and how are they going to push you to be a better version of yourself?


Everyone has an opportunity to be excellent but it will never happen accidentally.  That journey begins today.




Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What If?

"Promise to yourself to live your life as a revolution and not just a process of evolution."
Anthony J. D'Angelo



There is always a great deal of debate around educational reform issues.  The rationale behind a lot of what we do in education is decades and even centuries old.  We continue to settle for evolving when much of what we do goes against what we believe.


For example:
  • We believe learning can occur anytime/anywhere yet we have bells that tell us when the learning starts/stops.  
  • We know that students develop at different rates yet we put all students on a 13 year track (K-12).
  • We judge student/teacher/principal/school success on the ability to answer multiple choice questions yet we know it does not tell the whole story.
  • We force unsuccessful students to repeat the same grade/course in largely the same way and expect different results.


We know that many of our students are entering the workforce without the requisite skills yet we still teach in many places to a standardized test.  In "Stop Stealing Dreams" Seth Godin writes that there are only two tools available to the educator.  The easy one is fear.  Fear is easy to awake, easy to maintain, but ultimately toxic.  The other tool is passion.


I have said before that "Nobody is Passionate about Bubbling in Answer Sheets".  What would happen if we began to operate from a place of passion instead of fear?  Imagine what school and ultimately the world could look like then...





Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Future-Proof Education



I am currently reading "Stop Stealing Dreams" by Seth Godin.  This free e book tackles the question "What is school for?" and is based on the premise that the economy has changed forever but school hasn't.  If you haven't downloaded it yet, you can find it here.


There are an abundance of points that resonate with me.  I thought I'd share my favorite quote so far below: 


"The two pillars of a future-proof education: 
# 1 Teach kids how to lead. 
# 2 Help them learn to solve interesting problems."


I couldn't agree more with those two pillars.  How do we build schools around those pillars?  That is a definitely a question to tackle in future posts.  


Download your copy and join the worldwide dialogue around "What is school for?".

5 Questions to Test Your Leadership Visibility




I believe that every person in this world has dreamed of having the power to be invisible.  It would be nice to have the power to strategically vanish (if only for a little while).  As nice as it would be…the power of invisibility does not translate well into the world of leadership.

Visibility is a key part of being an effective leader.  The visibility of a leader has been linked to overall organizational effectiveness, innovation, and to student achievement in schools.  Most people think of a single question when the notion of a leader's visibility comes up. 
  • Are you a visible leader?

I always find some fault with yes/no type questions because they do not require you to justify, prove or even think much.  You can easily answer yes and still not be effective.  This is often the case when we treat essential leadership traits as check marks.  Each skill falls on a continuum with a never-ending cycle of improvement.   

Instead, consider the following five questions:

  1. How would people know what you value?
  2. How does your calendar reflect what you find is important?
  3. Where are you the most visible?
  4. Where are you the least visible?
  5. Does this match your stated priorities, key initiatives, data points, etc.?

These are just a few questions to get you thinking about visibility and moving in the right direction on the continuum.  The world is in need of super leaders.  We just don't need one with powers of invisibility.  

Showing up and being visible is only the first step.  Now you have to do something!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Surviving a Leadership Undercurrent


My mother always scared me with stories of rip tides or undercurrents taking people out to sea.  I believe her purpose was to keep me safe but it was also to show me the power of something that you cannot see.  Undercurrents exist both in the ocean and in organizations of all sizes.  People who are not cognizant of the undercurrent can be taken further away from the shore without even realizing it.  Leaders who lack situational awareness can also be taken further away from the mission/vision of the organization by not understanding the signs around them.  This type of situational awareness is an essential leadership skill


It is not surprising that the concept of situational awareness has been linked to both organization effectiveness and even student achievement. The researchers at McREL identified 21 key leadership responsibilities that are significantly correlated with higher student achievement.  The leadership responsibility with the highest correlation to student achievement was situational awareness.    



Leaders must understand their staff and community members’ dispositions to the changes they are leading.  This does not mean that you have to wait until everyone is happy and on board with the change.  In truth, that moment will never occur because people naturally resist change.  The key for leaders is to tailor their practices in stakeholder accordance with disposition and changes that are occurring. 


Not every tool should be a hammer and not every problem is a nail.   Some changes are easier for people to implement while others may be in direct opposition to prevailing attitudes. Effective leaders understand how the changes they are leading will be received and understood by all stakeholders.   The most effective leaders take the understanding a step further and tailor their leadership styles to create a movement for these changes.


The following advice on undercurrents comes from Trails.com:

Undercurrents are real and you cannot always see them but you can sense and feel when they begin to take hold.  As a swimmer if you do get caught in an undercurrent, don't exhaust yourself trying to swim against it. The best method for combating undercurrent is to attempt to swim perpendicular to the direction of the undercurrent. These rip tides typically exist in patches, and if you can swim out of the patch you will be able to return to shore.


Now read the previous paragraph again and replace swimmer with leader and swim with lead.  

Does it still make sense?  This advice holds true for both leaders and swimmers.  Leaders will exhaust themselves by going directly against the undercurrent.  Think about the undercurrent during your next initiative.  Your situational awareness will be key to not only surviving but also effectively implementing a new initiative to move your organization forward.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

6 Leadership Lessons From Dr. Seuss


Today is the day that the legendary Dr. Seuss was born.  Many images enter you head when someone mentions Dr. Seuss.  You may think of your first book, green eggs and ham, or even that pesky Grinch who stole Christmas.  When I think about Dr. Seuss I envision leadership lessons.  Below you will find a series of quotes from the collective works of Dr. Seuss and a brief explanation of how each relates to leadership

                     
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Leaders should be bold, take risks, and move organizations forward.  One of my favorite sayings is that managers do things right and leaders do the right things.  That's the difference between fitting in and standing out.  Dr. Seuss did not fit in and neither should you.  


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”  

I believe that leaders have a responsibility to be the "Lead Learner".  You set the tone for the rest of the organization through your actions.  The best leaders are typically learners first.  The great news is that you do not have to attend a conference or pay for an expensive workshop to get smarter.  Technology allows leaders to leverage the wisdom of the world.  You can even become smarter in a box with a fox or on a train in the rain.



“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.” 

The not-so-good street that many leaders end up on has to do with actions not matching words.  A leader can have the best ideas and intentions yet go nowhere when the actions don't match up.  A leader’s actions must always match even if your wardrobe does not match like many of the characters in Dr. Seuss’ imagination.


“Be who you are and say what you feel, 
because those who mind don't matter, 
and those who matter don't mind” 

If everyone is happy with the work you are doing then you probably aren't leading much of anything.   Leadership is about change and relentlessly seeking a better way.  Somebody, somewhere will not be excited about change and a better way.  Make sure you take inventory of those who mind and those who matter.  


“You have brains in your head. 
You have feet in your shoes 
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.” 

Do not be afraid to abandon an initiative that isn't working.  Leaders often ignore signs that an initiative or project should change direction.  Leaders can and should admit when a project has failed or an idea hasn't panned out.  This type of transparency builds trust within an organization.


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

 Everyone has a responsibility to lead.  You are the only one that brings your combination of skills to the table.  Nothing will get better without your leadership and today is the only day you are guaranteed.



There were many more quotes that I could choose.  
So next time you are reading a Dr. Seuss Book 
Make sure not to snooze.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Impossible is Nothing


"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." 
- Muhammad Ali

5 Free iPad Apps that Bring the News to You

I am a big believer in finding ways to be more efficient.  I love to Google and wander through endless resources online but I find myself utilizing apps that feed news, blogs, articles, etc. more and more.  Here are five apps that I am currently using to bring all of the smart information that is out there to me.

1. Zite is a free personalized magazine that automatically learns what you like and gets smarter every time you use it. I have expanded my interests and discovered new authors, topics, etc.  This app also allows you to share directly from the magazine.  I can even save into Evernote, ReaditLater, Instapaper, etc.  







2. SkyGrid is billed as a beautiful and captivating way to stay up to date on your news. You can follow sources, topics and receive updates on the interests you care about. The customized Photo Grid™ is also a nice feature.  








3. Flipboard also creates a personalized magazine out of everything being shared with you. I love that you can flip through your Facebook newsfeed, tweets from your Twitter timeline, photos from Instagram and much more. The interface is both beautiful and functional.






4. News360 is a new app for me.  It provides many of the same functions as the previous three.  News360 for iPad aggregates more than 7000 different news sources around the web to bring you news stories in a concise and useful stream.  I do like the way News360 can learn from your Facebook, Twitter, Evernote & Google Reader accounts to automatically create an interest graph that you use to get the stories that are most relevant to you.



5.  MobileRSS I'd be remiss if I didn't add a mobile RSS feeder to the list.  There are many different ones out there.  The one I currently utilize is very simple and straightforward.  You can move directly from the reader to email, Twitter, ReaditLater, etc.


I know that there are many more apps that you are utilizing to both become smarter and more efficient.  Feel free to share!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Before You Look


This year is a leap year as evidenced by today being February 29th.  It should also be a leap year for your leadership practices.  I know you have heard the saying "Look Before You Leap" a million times. This concept was unsuccessfully drilled in my head throughout a series of leaping adventures growing up where both bones and many household items were broken.

What if we were to flip that saying around during this leap year?

Instead of "Look Before You Leap" we would "Leap Before We Look".  

Many people spend so much time looking that they become paralyzed by fear and never leap.  We also box ourselves into what people have done before and impose constraints that may not be necessary.  We are in need of some big changes in education.  Those changes will not be made by people who are afraid to leap.

Many changes are being made TODAY on the shoulders of teachers and administrators that have the courage to allow students to bring their own device, flip the classroom, engage students in service learning, and more.  Our students need us to leap today so that they have the tomorrow they deserve.

I firmly believe that you can lead from wherever you are.  Leadership is all about having the courage to leap forward knowing that failure is possible.

This is your leap year.  What leaps will you make to propel all of us forward?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Leadership Essential: I'm Not Making Excuses

"Excuses Change Nothing, But Make Everyone Feel Better." 
- Mason Cooley

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they say, 
"I'm not making excuses but ....."? 


Perhaps you are even guilty of using this phrase yourself.  What typically follows this phrase?  If you listen closely you will indeed hear a long list of excuses about why the organization is not moving forward.  



  • What would happen if this phrase was banned from your organization?  
  • What if you were only allowed to focus on your initiatives instead of all of the obstacles?  
  • What if we weren't really making excuses?



I believe the results will be far more impressive than the reasons why we couldn't do it in the first place.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.



I have always been inspired by the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.  This began at an early age when my mom showed me a napkin that he signed for her during a chance meeting.  It has continued through my professional career as I often quote Dr. King in speeches and presentations.  There are numerous lessons that one can learn from in studying the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The following are leadership lessons taken from quotes attributed to Dr. King.

“We must use time creatively. “
We are all given the same number of minutes each day.  Furthermore, we get the same number of minutes a day that Dr. King had when he was alive.  How are you using your time?  A leader’s calendar will always show his or her true priorities.   How does your calendar match up with your stated beliefs, priorities, and initiatives?

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
Leaders often search for consensus when beginning new initiatives or reaching critical decisions.  The idea of searching is quite passive.  Think about when you search for something on the internet.  Sometimes you are able to find it easily while other times you get distracted with different things you found.  The best leaders take control in critical situations and actively mold consensus.  

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
Leaders know where they want the organization to head before many of the other stakeholders.  There are many similarities between innovation and leadership.  One of the key ideas that both concepts have is that if everyone is happy and content then neither is taking place.  A leader is responsible for continually moving an organization forward.  This will likely be in direct conflict to people who really like the way things currently run.  A leader has to be okay with people not agreeing and directly opposing initiatives.  Many people cannot see the staircase and therefore refuse to budge.

“I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
Leadership is about passion.  The best leaders in history were passionate about the initiatives they were leading.  Dr. King is the perfect example of this belief.  What are you passionate about? 

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.
People often look for the quick fix as it pertains to all areas of life.  This is no different when it comes to leadership.  The best leaders engage themselves and others in hard, solid thinking around critical initiatives.  The easy way is also the route that most other people are currently taking.  The path to excellence is never easy but always worth the work.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.
Nowhere in this quote is the mention of bubble sheets, minimum standard assessments, and a deluge of data.  Leaders often set the bar too low in an effort to ensure success.  True leadership is about taking some risks in order to achieve greatness.  Greatness begins with an education system that teaches students to think both intensively and critically. 

Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.
My father believed that if you weren’t going to do your best at a task (any task), then you shouldn’t even attempt it.  This also holds true for leadership.  The people whom you lead will both notice and emulate your relentless approach.  Similarly, they will also notice and emulate your approach if you are putting forth less than your best.  


These are just a few of the leadership lessons from a man who made a tremendous impact in the face of overwhelming adversity.  How will you employ these lessons into your leadership practices?