Kaleidoscopic Leadership

Kaleidoscopic Leadershipkaleidoscope

I recently read an article by a young administrator, expressing frustration at the inability to lead his school based on the image of what he thought a good leader should be doing.

With an abundance of leadership resources and learning opportunities available, I began to wonder if we are cultivating better leaders or a bigger sense of failure?

If you search for leadership books online you will see titles that lead us to believe there are: “magic solutions” that take one or two minutes to accomplish, “secrets” that unlock hidden leadership truths, simplistic lists for “guaranteeing” success.

I am not suggesting we can’t learn and improve our practice by reading these types of resources. Check my bookshelves and you’ll find many of them. But we do need to keep book lessons that teach leadership principles – in context with what it really means to lead in the field of education.

I recently spoke to our LPS administrators and asked them to complete the following question: I would be a perfect leader if only…

They answered with many of the things we would commonly identify – more time, fewer meetings, less social media, no interruptions.

I then asked them to think about my favorite toy – the kaleidoscope. I gave them a geometric design, much like a kaleidoscope makes, and asked them to think of it in terms of parts of their day. After labeling many of the parts, I asked them which of the “pieces” of their day would ever go away? Of course, the answer was that NONE of these pieces would go away.

Our schools are like giant kaleidoscopes:

  • Schools are always moving, ever changing, and made up of simple parts that have highly complex results.
  • They are beautiful because of the “dynamic complexity” that takes place every minute.
  • Even with the same common elements – hallways, desks, students, schedules – no two are exactly alike and they are beautiful because of their uniqueness.
  • When you look at them from the outside, they are relatively simple. When you view them on the inside, they are amazingly complicated.
  • Kaleidoscopes are fun and meant to be shared!

If we believe we can ever achieve the perfect “picture” of static leadership in our schools, we have allowed some flawed thinking to take place. We have to be willing to move with the kaleidoscope, adapting to new versions of each new day – admiring and embracing the beautiful complexity that is – school.