I recently met with an administrator during an interview for my capstone project, which centers around the role of technology in 21st century school leadership, and when I asked about his approach to leading 21st century teachers he said he encourages them to “fail wonderfully.” He prefaced that by saying teachers do not work for him, rather teachers work with him.
This administrator believes in shared leadership and giving up control to cultivate an environment of empowerment for teachers. He believes that his role is to provide teachers with the resources they need to do their jobs most effectively.
He does this through being a highly visible administrator who takes time to talk with his teachers and find out what they need; whether it be technology, collaboration time, new learning space, etc. What a novel concept…asking a teacher, “what do you need and how can I support you?”
So, after hearing all this, I asked him point blank how he defines leadership and he responded with:
Nothing more and nothing less.
He went on to explain that teachers in the 21st century need to feel supported by their administrators in experimenting, taking risks, and trying new things, hence his encouragement of his teachers to fail! Perhaps the best thing he said was that he believes teachers and administrators need to be able to “jump off a mountain and try to build a plane while falling.” How energizing and refreshing to hear!
Based on the reading I’ve been doing, he is absolutely right. The most influential leaders, who believe their role is to serve the needs of all the stakeholders within their school and community, seem to be the ones who can transform schools and who really can bring substantial change to a school. These are leaders who listen, trust, and believe in their teachers. These are also leaders who have a vision centered around not just what the teachers need but what the students need.
This 21st century leadership philosophy is what drives successful schools in the 21st century. We encourage our students to take risks and to try new things and see what happens, so why would we not encourage our teachers to do the same thing? Isn’t it through experimentation where real learning occurs? The thought of risk taking should not evoke fear, rather it should spark excitement.
So failing wonderfully as this administrator put it may be the key to truly transforming school culture and creating the exciting and engaging environment that our students so desperately want and deserve.