Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seek Perfection or Go Home

Over the years I've taught and coached for a diverse range of schools and teams.  Two things that remain constant, though, are staff meeting agenda items about a desire to build a culture of success and a mix of effective leaders.

Coach Walsh introduces an idea in his blog that "someone who leads by example doesn't lead."  I don't necessarily agree with this statement that, admittedly, is out of context.  So to re-contextualize the statement, I believe the first step of leadership is modeling a behavior of growth.  Leading by example is the first step over the line the separates a leader from the rest of the team.  I would say a good teammate, in athletics or in the workforce, shows up on time, displays a positive attitude, and displays a willingness to exert energy towards the goals of the team.  If a person doesn't do these things or cannot do these things, then their time with that team has come to an end and they need to leave, or be asked to leave.

A leader, though, needs to lead by example because they have transcended those basic attributes of a good teammate and are now becoming agents of change.  A good leader seeks out innovations that can improve the team.  A good leader spends time every day reflecting on the performance of their team and tries something new to spark improvement.  A good leader is never satisfied--even with success.

     I am inspired every time I watch Coach Boone give this speech.  "We will be PERFECT in every aspect of the game."

A good teacher leader will look at test scores, for example, and acknowledge scores that meet No Child Left Behind benchmark goals are great, but will then look for ways to EXCEED those benchmarks. 

A good leader in athletics doesn't just prepare for the best opponent on the schedule, but seeks to move their team to perfect execution in all aspects of the game.

The overlooked second step of a strong leader is the development of a common, success-driven vocabulary for their team.  Some words I loath and feel are detrimental forces to the quest for perfection are meeting, tutoring, remediate, accommodations, modifications, extended time, practice, and role. 

Don't say meeting when an effective leader means collaboration.
Don't say tutoring or remediating when an effective leader means accelerating.
Don't say test-accommodations or test-modifications when an effective leader means test-scaffolding. 
Don't say extended time when an effective leader means flexible scheduling. 
Don't say practice when an effective leader, like Coach Boone, says, "let's go to work."

And coaches, please don't tell your team that everyone has a role when an effective leader means everyone is vital to the quest for perfection.


  1. words transform the image, maybe, but i wonder where are the effective leaders, committed to growth beyond nclb, who appreciate the individual in every learner

  2. Good point. Maybe I'm too altruistic but I go to bed at night believing my colleagues trudge towards NCLB benchmarks, but make time for creativity in each lesson. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Is the "good leader" aware that they are leading? I would argue that there are some labeled as "good leaders," but in the paradigm of my perception they appear to be "leading" for a purpose, perhaps they feel they should act that way. A true "good leader" probably does not know any different.