The Leadership Monograph Collection: Reflections of Effective Lead(ing)
The silence spoke more than storms.
Leadership begins and ends within the channels of silence that do exist. The leader that I seek to be is one that is constantly aware of the ways in which we interact with the silences that surround us, while simultaneously considering the ways in which those silences can inform who we are called to be and when we are called to serve and engage with groups of people. Silence is a guide. The contents of this monograph center on the ways in which the silence I have observed and, anticipate to continually observe, will inform the purpose of my service as an educational leader.
Monograph #1: A Re-humanization is the purpose of educational leadership
Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed states, “Dehumanization, which marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also (though in a different way) those who have stolen it, is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human. This distortion occurs within history; but it is not an historical vocation (Freire, 1968). Education is a place where students and their lived experiences meet at the intersection of institutional and historical narrative. Throughout history oppression, which facilitates dehumanization, has been a persistent norm. However, in order to give students the opportunity to define their humanity within the context of systems and institutions, one must first identify that oppressing others is not the means to enabling full humanity. Freire offers a helpful mirror to consider the role of the educator and the school leader. If the educator is to use tools of power amassing opposed to tools of voice amplification, for the young people they support; ultimately the educator loses their humanity in the fabricated pursuit of power.
This tension rests on the fulcrum of who we deem worthy of humanity. It takes a complicit attitude in dehumanization to believe that not all young people are full of promise and potential. This tension rests within me as I consider the lens through which I lead. I am not called to lead for the purposes of maintaining or amassing power, rather I am called to lead to help young people identify the systems and modes of oppression that exist in this world so that they can dismantle the impacts. This very calling demands that I focus less on the self and the personal desire of leading from behind and understanding that leadership iterates from supporting the “least of these.” As Freire asserts, the distortion of humanity is predicated by historical wrongs, but those historical wrongs do not have to be one’s calling. If anything, the leader that I am called to be is the one who understands that history informs the ways in which we need to speak truth to power, incessantly, to sow into the future. As such the role of education and the function of my leadership is to consistently re-humanize our young people so that they too can speak truth to power.
Word Count: 374
Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury publishing USA.
Monograph #2: We can do that which is accounted for
When considering the capacity of the people within an educational organization, it is important to assess the levels of baggage they might carry with them into the building. Education is linked to our health, overall, and more intimately it is linked to the ways in which we choose to show up to spaces and how those spaces in turn impact us. It is important to remember that at the nexus of space and person, are the varying identities that individuals hold. For example, the way in which women interact with the space of corporate America potentially will look drastically different than the way in which men interact with the same. These unique interactions will have consistent and consequential effects on people and their overall bandwidth. Verschelden argues that students of marginalized identities are “qualitatively different from majority students who come from backgrounds of relative social and economic security” (Verschelden, 2017, pp. 37-38). Moreover, these students are likely to only be operating with a fraction of the full capacity of their cognitive abilities because of the limited bandwidth that oppressive systems facilitate. Keeping this in mind, it is critical as an educational leader to remember that we can in fact do that which is accounted for.
If we fail to take account of the physical blockages to the growth and development of young people across ranges of difference, we in turn block our ability to actively support the needs that they will present with. In short, with a failure of naming the systems at play; we fail to amplify the services and supports young people might need. To complicate this approach, Stroh (2015), asserts that the use of a systems story uncovers how people contribute, albeit unwittingly to their own problems despite their best intentions (Stroh, 2015, p. 35). The systems story concept is a tool that is used to primarily build self awareness and personal responsibility, by identifying where we each show up within a system we are able to identify where our bandwidth may in fact be limited or amplified. This is critical pedagogy for my leadership as it will inform both how I support the adults within a space as well as the children. By understanding the compromises to bandwidth, say a pandemic, I am given the opportunity to consider how systemic shifts or trends might impact particular individuals or particular groups of people. This is foundational to the praxis of leadership, in that, it will allow me to diagnose that oftentimes there is a what that is blocking people from seeing the why behind a lesson, practice, or decision.
Word Count: 400
Stroh, D. P. (2015). Systems thinking for social change: A practical guide to solving complex problems, avoiding unintended consequences, and achieving lasting results. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Verschelden, C. (2017). Bandwidth recovery: Helping students reclaim cognitive resources lost to poverty, racism, and social marginalization. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Monograph #3: Negotiate for Liberation, Not Degradation
Leadership is oftentimes a series of choices, in which one must assess what are the positions, interests, and zones of possible agreement for people across a series of indicators or realities. This theme or approach can be conceptualized as a negotiation between needs, wants, resources and values. These negotiations, whether on the playground or in the boardroom drive the ways in which relationships are maintained or corroded because of the choices that people make or fail to make. In Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, three competencies are put forward as key negotiation tactics to help inform the ways in which hard conversations can proceed; namely they are “inquiry, paraphrasing, and acknowledgement” (Stone, et. al., 1999, pp. 196-200). Each of these tools require the negotiator to primarily listen to the other party to assess what their interests are. For example, by using the skill of inquiry one simply can be curious by asking probing questions and open ended questions that lead the conversation to a particular place of discovery opposed to demands. Inquiry allows information to be collected and analyzed in a way that builds relationships, opposed to tarnishing them. Moreover, the affirmation of having someone paraphrase what they hear a speaker saying is able to ground a conversation in ways that might seem small, but are in fact mighty. Saying simple terms like, “what I hear you saying is” allows the speaker to know that you as negotiator are in fact listening and in tune with their needs. Finally, acknowledging the expressed and espoused concerns or thoughts of an individual allows for a deeper sense connection. This informs my leadership, in that this negotiation skill is affirming and restorative. It ultimately allows me to help liberate those who I am in communion with, opposed to reinforcing power dynamics. Power, in the negotiation process is a constructed frame to maintain control; however, for my purposes I am not interested in maintaining power constructions. I want people to believe that they are in fact free.
Word Count: 336
Stone, D., Heen, S., & Patton, B. (2010). Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most. Penguin.
Monograph #4: Leadership is a Communal Practice
Throughout my time in the Klingenstein Center, the concept of a cohort has been thought of as a verb. A thing that is in fact done, worked at, stumbled through, and ultimately sustained. This framing is an important piece of engagement that has informed both my practice and way of thought when it comes to dreaming about the possibility of educational practice and the world that exists beyond. Specifically, two concepts that I find important when thinking about cohorts and the overall idea of “togetherness” are Chris Emdins’ 7Cs of Reality Pedagogy and Adams’ Equity Theory of Motivation. Emdin’s 7Cs are cogenerative dialogues, co-teaching, cosmopolitanism, context, content, competition, and finally curation. Of these seven approaches to building responsive and reality based classrooms and schools, cogenerative dialogues are approaches that I will carry with me as a leader. Cogenerative dialogues ask the educator or leader to co-create, actively, with the group of people that they are engaging with. For example, the teacher does not issue norms - they create them in partnership with their students. This process leads to a co-creation of community, values, and ethos of care within the space one is interacting in. In short, cogenerative dialogues provide that educators and leaders have the opportunity to share voice with their students and counter parts; there is no hierarchical approach or power hoarding. I find these approaches not only helpful, but integral to understanding how to in fact motivate people to want to be within a space. Consider equity theory, which asserts that people assess fairness by observing their inputs and the associated outputs. Oftentimes, people feel demotivated when they observe that their contributions to an organization are not producing desirable outcomes. I posit that when we consider this framing, we lift opportunities for people and more importantly students to contribute to spaces in ways that affirm them, which ultimately produces a stronger output. The marriage of these frames is guiding the leader that I am forming, within myself, to be communal in the approach.
Word Count: 316
Adams, J. S. (1963). Equity Theory on job motivation. Retrieved on, 18(10).
Emdin, C. (2016). For White folks who teach in the hood... and the rest of y'all too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Beacon Press.
Conclusion: The Leader I Aim To Be
From this moment, I am not sure where I will go next or to what extent I will grow as a leader. I know that I cam committed to a particular “north star,” however; that star calls me to be authentic and to show up fully. My leadership vision from this moment is to be the leader that didn’t exist when I was growing up in schools, but also I am to be the leader that has been created by the conditions of now. I look forward to being exactly what I have been designed to be -- a refugee of the era of Brown v. Board, the product of Super Predator Politics, and my ancestor’s wildest dreams. My future, in short, is one of painfully blissful juxtapositions and contradictions because being committed to truth, and not power, is in fact revolutionary.
I thank the silence found in these experiences, particularly graduate study; it has introduced me to the voice of iterative leadership.