The Speed of Enlightenment

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.        ~African Proverb

Seriously? We have to choose?

What about this: “If you want to go fast and far, let there be spaces in your togetherness”?

You’re guilty, I’m guilty. We want things relatively fast. Just not, for the love of God, slow. And please: not always together.

It can be infuriating. The meetings.The waiting to hurry up. The feigning of interest in someone’s absurd point of view. The humouring of curmudgeons. The compromises. The time.

So we see senior administrators trying to fast track change by circumventing due process. Here’s one way to ensure that your initiatives falter—make them unilaterally. Don’t ask your teachers. Keep everyone guessing. Post job openings that start the rumour mill humming. Keep a low profile. Remember, lasting change comes from the outside in.

“I think the first thing one has to do [in setting out to change a culture],” says Robert Dockson, “is get people on one’s side and show them where you want to take the company. Trust is vital. People trust you when you don’t play games with them, when you put everything on the table and speak honestly with them. Even if you aren’t very articulate, your intellectual honesty comes through, and people recognize that and respond positively” (p. 161, On Becoming a Leader, Bennis).

Attempting to change culture without communicating purpose is futile. Leaders must be able to articulate their vision, because, as Marty Kaplan says, “if someone is a complete master of what they need to know, but is unable to explain why I should care about it or want to help, then they can’t get me to support them.”

If you want to go fast, go alone. We’ll catch up sooner or–more probably–later.


4 thoughts on “The Speed of Enlightenment

  1. unilateral decisions suck in any context. they speak of ego and power-seeking. where change is sought for genuinely sensible and grounded reasons, there is generally little obstruction from those most affected (if they have a voice at all).
    may the ego-bound leader travel both far AND fast–away from us!

  2. As you say, “where change is sought for genuinely sensible and grounded reasons, there is generally little obstruction.” It is crucial that leaders communicate with those that are expected to “follow” why they are doing what they are doing. It is so easy to communicate these days–a maintained blog, a newsletter, an email, even an on-line survey for members to voice their concerns and opinions. Of course, one cannot please all the people, but transparency goes a long way towards building relationships.

    • Perhaps the word I’m looking for is “candor.” As Bennis says, “There are few absolutes in the study of leadership, but there is at least one: No leader becomes truly great unless he or she accepts, even embraces, candor. Candor performs many invaluable functions within an organization. It keeps the leader from disappearing into an isolation booth of sorts, built and guarded by yes men. It forces the leader to listen to unpleasant truths and thus helps ensure that he or she has al the data needed to make informed decisions…..As to candor, it is important to remember that it should be reciprocal. It needs to operate both up and down because followers have a need to know. Leaders sometimes try to confine important information to the executive suite. They treat it as an executive perk, like the company jet. But whenever possible. information should be shared throughout the organization, whether it is a workplace or a nation. Obviously, certain trade and national secrets must be kept. But most information is not sensitive, and sharing it allows followers to make informed decisions and act accordingly. Those who are given information are brought closer to the heart of the organization. Morale improves, often boosting performance. Alternatively, lack of candor lowers morale.” (pp. 207-208).

      I might add that a perceived lack of candor can also be damaging to morale.

  3. I couldn’t agree more strongly with the concept of candour as one of the most important aspects in a well-functioning relationship. And relationship is what we are talking about…right? Because, in order to go forward, to make meaningful and long-lasting progress, we have to go together….at least when we are talking about institutions filled with people on a daily basis. And, in order for the progress to be solid…to have purpose, meaning and the desired results…those involved in the ‘march forward’ must trust in the relationship they have with each other. Be they students, teachers, or administrators, trust in our relationships enables us to act with courage: the courage to try; to be not always elegant in our attempts; to sometimes fail and still be supported by the others going forward with us. And from that place of courage, we can be more present in the process of what we are doing and learning. A focus on the process of going forward can reaffirm our relationships and fuel our courage.Clear and transparent communication, conviction expressed with passion based on experience and research (whether you are moving through the plains of Africa, or through a prescribed curriculum) can inspire the courage needed for the journey. Courage to trust in the process and candour in its expression..fuel for the long journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s