Notes from “Sustainable Leadership”

Notes from ‘Sustainable Leadership’ by Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink. 2006. Josey-Bass: San Francisco

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  • “Change in education is easy to propose, hard to implement, and extraordinarily difficult to sustain. Innovations easily attract early enthusiasts, but it is harder to convince more skeptical educators to commit to the hard work of implementation.” Pg. 1
  • Sustainability in the corporate world is as essential and desirable as it is in the natural environment. Businesses that operate sustainably have a more durable record of profitability and success than those that do not. Companies that are built to last:
    • Put purpose before profit.
    • Preserve long-standing purposes amid the pursuit of change.
    • Start slowly and advance persistently.
    • Do not depend on a single visionary leader.
    • Grow their own leadership instead of importing stars.
    • Learn from diverse experimentation. (page 5)
  • Initiative Overload “the tendency of organisations to launch more change initiatives than anyone could ever reasonably handle” (page 8)
  • Sustainable educational leadership and improvement preserves and develops deep learning for all that spreads and lasts, in ways that do no harm to and indeed create positive benefit for others around us, now and in the future. (Page 17)
  • There are seven principles of sustainability in educational change and leadership are depth, length, breadth, justice, diversity, resourcefulness and conservation.
  • Sustainable leadership, like sustainable improvement, begins with a strong and unswerving sense of moral purpose. The core meaning of sustain is “to hold up; bear the weight of; be able to bear (strain, suffering, and the like) without collapse.” Inner conviction, unshakable faith, and a driving, hopeful sense of purpose that stretches far beyond the self-these are inalienable elements of moral character that truly sustain people during times of overwhelming difficulty and almost unbearable suffering. (Page 24-25)
  • Deep and broad learning can be established through productive pedagogies. These are:
    • Intellectually demanding
    • Connected to students’ prior knowledge and to the world beyond them
    • Provided within a supportive environment and learning process
    • Prepared so as to engage students and their learning with cultural differences.
  • Developing and preserving a sustainable learning involves:
    • Be passionate advocates for and defenders of deep and broad learning for all students.
    • Commit to improving the old basics of literacy and math but not focusing on them to the exclusion of everything else, while also embracing the new basics of creativity.
    • Put learning before testing.
    • Making learning hte paramount priority in all leadership activity.
    • Become more knowledgeable about learning.
    • Make learning transparent among the educators in a school.
  • Succession is a key part of sustainable leadership. Leaders should where possible be raised from inside the organisation.
  • Leadership in a school is not limited to the principal or even its teachers. It stretches across individuals, communities, and networks and up and down organisational layers. No one has to distribute leadership in a school; it’s already distributed. Leadership exists everywhere, across time and space – at lunchtime, between classes after school and on weekends, and in the school’s offices, classrooms, and playing fields. Distributed leadership can be good or bad, planned or serendipitous, focused or unfocused. Distributed leadership can enhance the sustainability of deep and broad learning for all students or disintegrate into the kind of turmoil that sucks the energy and enthusiasm out of students and staff.
  • Trust in schools is essential. Yet we behaving less and less like trusting societies Improvement secured through cultures of shared understanding, joint commitment, and mutual responsibility is being replaced by compliance enforced by impersonal performance standards and abstract accountability.