Monthly Archives: April 2012

Aligning, Empowering, Serving and Collaborating

To lead in today’s schools, organizations, business, communities and civic groups is different than in “days gone by”.   Leaders need to be able to develop others, effectively interact (think together) with others, help others to see and embrace the vision or direction of the organization and support others as they become more and more valuable in serving the constituents of the organization.

School leadership would encompass this kind of work developing teachers, administrators and all others connected with the school, effectively think together with these people and others, helping all of these people to create (recreate), see and embrace the vision or direction of the school district [this will likely focus on each and every students clearly and measurably benefiting from his or her school experience] and supporting all of these people as they become more and more effective at insuring that each and every student benefits from school.  Schools are for learning and learning is how students should be benefiting.

Today’s school leader must work with others in adaptive ways and with humility.  Obviously, it will be others who will insure that each and every student learns – not the leader.  This array of leadership responsibilities is different than the ‘command and control’ leadership many people think of when they think of effective leaders.

Bill George writes: “The hierarchical model simply doesn’t work anymore. The craftsman-apprentice model has been replaced by learning organizations, filled with knowledge workers who don’t respond to “top down” leadership. Seeking opportunities to lead, young people are unwilling to spend ten years waiting in line. Most important, people are searching for genuine satisfaction and meaning from their work, not just money.

In the 21st century the most successful leaders will focus on . . . aligning people around mission and values and empowering leaders at all levels, while concentrating on serving customers and collaborating throughout the organization.

Aligning: The leader’s most difficult task is to align people around the organization’s mission and shared values, which is far more challenging than making short-term numbers.

Traditional leaders thought they could solve this problem with rulebooks, training programs and compliance systems, and were shocked when people deviated. Aligned employees commit to the mission and values of the organization, and want to be part of something greater than themselves.

Empowering: Hierarchical leaders delegate limited amounts of power in order to retain control. In contrast, 21st century leaders empower leaders at all levels, combined with sophisticated accountability systems to ensure commitments are met.

Serving: Any organization that doesn’t provide its customers with superior value relative to competitors will find itself going out of business. Satisfied customers and motivated employees are key to sustaining revenue growth and, ultimately, shareholder value.

Collaborating: Collaboration — within the organization and with customers, suppliers, and even competitors — is required to achieve lasting solutions. Leaders must foster this collaborative spirit, eliminating internal politics and focusing on internal cooperation.

The ultimate measure of effectiveness for leaders is the ability to sustain superior results over an extended period of time. Organizations filled with aligned, empowered and collaborative employees focused on serving customers will outperform hierarchical organizations every time. Top-down leaders may achieve near-term results, but only authentic leaders can galvanize the entire organization to sustain long-term performance.”

Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, the author of four best-selling books on leadership, including True North.


Reflecting upon my journey in India and . . .

I returned form two weeks in India at the beginning of March.  The memories, seeds of learning and images of people and places are very much alive for me.  The journey proceeds as I continue to think deeply about the bounty of stimulating experiences India presented to me,

I traveled with the Great Lakes Leadership Academy.  I am a coach for GLLA. Being a coach for Michigan leaders is humbling and being able to experience India with them – under powerful planning of GLLA – leaves me of flowing with appreciation.  This richly provocative and inspirational journey allowed us (me) the experience of meeting and getting to know many people – professors, a tribal leader, business leaders, leaders and workers in non-profits, educators and innovators.  All of these people were obviously dedicated to making a difference.  This people are energetic as they contributing to the common good.  They are part of the positive, forward looking energy of an India emerging out of the depths of poverty.

The journey forward for the people of  India will be a long one.  India’s past journey to independence was several decades long.  That was a non violent peoples revolution.  The citizens and leaders of today are also involved in a dramatic times of possibilities for India.  Economic, social, and cultural change – locally and globally – is underway.  The future could be brighter for the people and the country of India.  I hope it is!

My own journey is to open myself to understanding and knowing more. I see understanding a knowing is processes that don’t end.  I see thoughtful reflection and intentional learning regarding India: its people, its heritage , its possibility to be a good place to focus my attention.  India is changing.  This kind of change isn’t easy or smooth. I appreciate the complexity of change.

In the process of learning more about India I have read a new and powerful book.  Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death. And Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012) is story of the real people living in the disparate slums by the airport in Mumbai.  This is nonfiction that truly reads like fiction. It is remarkable!

Less than two,months ago I was on a bus inside the Mumbai and I caught a quick glimpse of the slums outside (adjacent to) the airport wall.  The sight left me with a desire to know more these slums.  And to know more about this country and it’s complexity. Katerine Boo’s new book has been a way to learn.  It was a great read and I recommend it.

I still want to know more about India. My own journey of understanding and knowing continues.


Picture from

Mindfulness>mindlessness: Exploiting the Power of Uncertainty

These are uncertain times for schools, families, businesses, and/or communities.  And with uncertainty there can be a tendency, on the part of those that are the leaders or those who assume leadership to try to take charge of the future by asking others to implement “their” plan – as if leadership should be able to ‘chart the best course’ into the future. As if leadership has or should have the “answers” to the uncertaincy.  In a sense, this approach says others should be mindless as they follow the one or few that are to be mindful.

I would suggest that this is a time where interdependent thinking is called for.  This is a time where we can come together and think together to meet the opportunities of the future.  Interconnecting in a mindful way makes a lot of sense to me!  And it really begins with encouraging everyone to be mindful!  Just by having everyone in the school, family, business or community acting in mindful ways can be very productive – especially if htey share a mission.

Once again the power of the shared mission can’t be over stated. In the example to follows musicains in orchestras – who obviously share the mission of quality renditions of class music – were either mindless or mindful in their individual performance. The results are interesting and thought provoking.

Ellen Langer is the author of eleven books, including the international bestseller Mindfulness, which has been translated into fifteen languages, and more than two hundred research articles and is a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University writes:  In a study conducted with Timothy Russell and Noah Eisenkraft, orchestra musicians were instructed to be either mindless or mindful. In this case, being mindless meant replicating a previous performance with which they were very satisfied. The mindful instructions directed them to make the piece new in very subtle ways that only they would know. (They were playing classical music and not jazz so the novel distinctions were indeed subtle.) Their performance was taped and then played for audiences unaware of our instructions. We found that not only did the musicians much prefer playing mindfully, the mindfully played pieces were judged as superior. Everyone was in a sense mindfully doing their own thing and the result was a better coordinated outcome.


In more than 30 years of research, we’ve found that increasing mindfulness increases charisma and productivity, decreases burnout and accidents, and increases creativity, memory, attention, positive affect, health, and even longevity. When mindful we can take advantages of opportunities and avert the dangers that don’t yet exist. This is true for the leader and the led.

In sum, there is no best way to do anything independent of context, so the leader cannot have privileged information. When leaders keep everyone in their place with the illusion of knowability and possession of this privileged knowledge the benefit to them is that we “obey” and leaders feel superior. The cost is that they create lemmings. Their mindlessness promotes our own mindlessness which costs us our well being and health. Net result, the leader, the led, and the company all lose.

It’s nice to imagine a company (or I’ll add: a school, family, friend group, team, and/or community) where everyone is mindful. But it will take some time to achieve the ideal even if possible. Meanwhile, we need leaders whose major, perhaps only task is to promote mindfulness in those around them. By learning how to exploit the power of uncertainty maybe all of us will wake up.”

Are you a leader that can learn how to or are all ready good at – exploiting the power of uncertainty?

Making Teacher Evaluations Public is a Bad Idea ~ Bill Gates

In an interview with Weekend Edition Saturday‘s host Scott Simon, Gates explained himself.

“The goal is to help teachers be better,” Gates said. “And when we run personnel systems where we want to be frank with employees about where they need to improve, having [evaluations] publicly available is not conducive to openness and a free exchange of views.”

Scott pushed that point, asking Gates if he could understand this is information that might be helpful for parents who want to know how their children’s teachers are performing.

Gates said parents looking at evaluations could lead to a rush of them trying to get their kids in classrooms with the highly rated teachers and that’s a “zero-sum game,” he said, when what we should be doing is helping all teachers improve.

Still, Gates said he believed in evaluations. He said if Microsoft didn’t have evaluations, “it wouldn’t have worked.”

He said that seniority and educational degrees didn’t correlate with “who was writing the best code.”

Listen to the six minute interview to hear all Bill Gates had to say.


Port-Au-Prince: A City Of Millions, With No Sewer System

My last post focused in part on the fact that sanitation and toilets in India are not commonplace.

Then today I heard this piece on NPR about the city of Port-Au-Prince in Haiti and the serious situation that city has with sanitation.

If issues of sanitation in developing countries are something you want to help with here is a project taking place in East Lansing, Michigan to raise money.


Please join the Third Annual MSU SAID Fundraising Gala. This year, they are supporting the construction of sanitation infrastructure in rural areas surrounding Coimbatore, India.


In rural India, sanitation facilities are only available to approximately 25% of the population (WHO/UNICEF). As a result, many people use open areas to meet their sanitation needs. This leaves the area’s clean water supply open to a multitude of risks which endangers public health, agriculture production, and the community’s overall safety.  Many pathogenic microorganisms exist in human excreta, which can lead to the spread of disease, such as typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea. About 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year cause 1.8 million deaths, over 90% of them among children under five (UNICEF). In addition, increasing urbanization makes it more difficult for women to find discrete areas to meet their sanitation needs, and they are forced to venture farther away from their home which jeopardizes their personal safety. Furthermore, the septic tank byproducts can be used as fertilizer to improve local agriculture, and reduce input costs for the farmer. This development project addresses the most pointed needs of a community in a holistic, sustainable way. Because toilets are significant investments, frequently costing the equivalent of a year’s wage, our help is needed to support their efforts.

MSU SAID is working to raise $12,240 to support the construction of 40 twin pit toilets in the Coimbatore region of India. This design is efficient, affordable, and low-maintenance.

This evening will include Indian inspired food, entertainment, speakers, henna, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the Gala go directly to Shanti Ashram’s sanitation initiative, benefiting the construction of twin pit toilets in rural Coimbatore.

Contact with questions. Prices are $10 for students and $25 for non-students. Tickets should be purchased prior to the event.

More details about the gala and project can be found at:


And tickets can be purchased online at:

Karen and I can’t be there for the event but we did donate to the cause.