Thursday, February 3, 2011

Contextual "caves" of leadership

During today's VAIS Leadership Conference, I had the pleasure of participating in a presentation by Dr. Thomas Shields where he used Plato's cave allegory as the backdrop for talking about how leaders are those who go "back into the cave."

Dr. Shields' example basically dealt with the fact that as leaders, we often have information about the reality of situations that our followers do not.  In this case, as in the case of Plato's cave allegory, the leader is one who goes back "into the cave" instead of running away with the knowledge of the truth.  By going back in, the leader commits himself or herself to guiding others to an understanding of that truth.

In schools, we may be dealing with any number of contextual "caves" in which the manufactured truth is, in fact, a false reality.  These false realities may even be more pronounced in this environment of economic uncertainty - especially for private and independent schools.

How do you work your way out of these contextual caves?

Dr. Shields offered these steps to help you get out of the cave:
  • Clarify your center - what do you stand for?
  • Clarify what is possible
  • Clarify what others can do to contribute based on their talents and values - not a job description
  • Support others so they can contribute
  • Be relentless
  • Measure and celebrate successes
What contextual caves are you addressing in your school?

Dr. Shields is the Director of the Center for Leadership in Education, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

Resources suggested by Dr. Shields during his presentation:

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