Start With “Why”, But Then What?

Photo Credit: patrick wilken via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: patrick wilken via Compfight cc

Start With Why” by Simon Sinek suggests that great leadership begins with asking the question, “Why do we do this?” as a focal point for our actions.  Understanding our purpose, our philosophy, is fundamental for educational leaders.  I have written about the importance of this in the past (You Need to Know What You Stand For), and Shelley Wright explains it beautifully in her blog.

Organizations, too, have learned the value in examining their purpose and collaborating to document group beliefs.  Over the past year, SGDSB in northwestern Ontario engaged stakeholders in examining their purpose, and writing a new Strategic Plan.

But just knowing the “why” is not enough to succeed in creating the learning opportunities we want for our students.  Once the “why” is established, how do we continue to move the school system forward?

Shelley Wright asks this question in a recent blog post:

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 9.21.23 PM
Shelley Wright: Start With Why – The Power of Student-Driven Learning

As individuals, it can be very difficult to try to change our practice in a group setting that is not supportive.  I do agree with Shelley that sometimes fear keeps us from teaching how we know we need to teach.  The number of comments on my post on “When the Principal Is a Bully” tells me that this is an issue that affects teachers all over the world.

But there is more.

Sometimes the personal answer to “Why?” does not align with the organizational answer.

Not everyone works in public education for the “right” reasons – the “why” that results in the best learning opportunities for our youth.  This isn’t referring only to teachers.  Administrators can choose that path for personal gain, status, financial reward or other reasons that are not best for students.

And how do we tackle that?

We can start with who we invite into the organization in the first place.

Let’s go back to Simon Sinek for a moment.

“But if you don’t know why you do what you do, how will you ever get anyone to … be loyal, and want to be a part of what it is that you do?”

Do your education leaders know why they do what they do?

“The goal is not hire people who just need a job.  The goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.”

“If you hire people because they need a job, they will work for your money.  If you hire people who believe what you believe, they will work for you for blood, and sweat and tears.”

Who we hire to work with our children and to lead our schools is a critical decision that cannot be taken lightly.

We should never settle for someone who will not provide the learning environment in the classroom or the leadership and support in the organization that we know would make our school system the best for our kids.

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