Take advantage of the practices of the big winners (Reviews)


Today’s guest blog is written by Ray Smith and Julie Smith, former principals and authors of Assessment of pedagogical leadership: practices recognized for success (Corwin Press, 2015).

To help describe the concept of identifying and exploiting the leadership practices of big winners, we will rely on a principle taken from the field of total quality management. Let’s apply it Pareto principle–what is called the “80/20 rule“- to your leadership practices.

The “80/20 rule” argument goes something like this …

About 80% of the impact of your leadership will come from 20% of your leadership practices. Another way of saying this is that a few meaningful leadership practices will account for most of your leadership impact. The bulk of your leadership practices – let’s say about 80% – will have so much less impact that they will only have 20% of your effect on student learning and achievement. So the question is, have you identified these few meaningful leadership practices that will represent your greatest impact on student learning and success?

It’s strange how things seem to go this way if we let nature take its course. We divide our leadership time and energies around, investing in a variety of activities that seem to be worth it. But our impact varies considerably from one set of leadership practices to another. A few leadership practices, aimed at a limited number of goals, say 2-3, end up making the major contributions to your total leadership impact.

Just think how much you can improve the impact of your leadership by allocating your professional leadership time and resources more strategically. Spend your time, energy, and influence in the areas of high-performing, big-winning leadership –pedagogical leadership practices (Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd, 2009), and you could easily double or triple your impact.

Think of it this way. The impact of leadership comes from disproportionate investments. That is, it happens when you focus on the leadership practices of the big winners … when you are unfair or stingy in the way you distribute your professional practices and resources.

You won’t get great results just by staying busy or being responsible. Or even by trying hard and doing a pretty solid job. It’s not the effort or activity that matters, but the impact of your leadership practices on student learning and success. You need to take a look at your productive hours and identify what seems to stimulate your leadership development the most. In particular, what do you do, what practices do you engage in that contribute the most to learning and success?

These are the powerful leadership points, the leadership practices of the big winners. They deserve the lion’s share of your productive hours and energy because they will bring you the most meaningful results. If you want maximum impact, don’t make the mistake of looking for “balance” in your daily or weekly routine. Rather, rely heavily on the leadership practices of the Big Winners to leverage your impact on student learning and success. What are these high leverage leadership practices?

According to research by Robinson, Hohepa and Lloyd (2009), “The more leaders focus their influence, learning, and relationships with teachers on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater their influence on student outcomes.”(P. 40). Essentially, the authors determined that these five instructional leadership practices had the greatest impact on student achievement:

  1. Establish a shared vision / mission, goals and expectations
  2. Strategic resourcing
  3. Ensuring the effectiveness of teachers and staff
  4. Lead and participate in the learning and development of teachers / leaders, and
  5. Provide an orderly, safe and supportive environment

What percentage of your day or week is spent directly on these five educational leadership practices? If you don’t know, do a time audit. Keep a time diary for a week. Examples of categories you might include: emails, scheduling, voicemail replies, reports, professional reading, observation classes, direct counseling reports, parent meetings, staff meetings, community meetings, team meetings management, personal time, family time, travel, community service, etc. After collecting at least a full week of daily records, build a pie chart that reflects your actual time allocation for each category. Compare that to these five leadership practices. Evaluate the changes you need to make to more effectively allocate your time to your winning leadership practices.

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