Sunday, November 25, 2012

Educational Leadership and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

In the annals of leadership history, one of the standouts will undoubtedly be Steve Jobs, CEO and Co-Founder of Apple Computers, and now a force to be reckoned with at Disney, Inc.. His influence has been felt not only in the computer industry, but the entertainment industry has become the recipient of his need to affect technology forever.
There are numerous descriptors for Jobs which give insight into his philosophy of leadership. One of the key features of his leadership is his entrepreneurial spirit. In this spirit is his need to fully understand, and engage in, all aspects of his creations. He has grown most of his endeavors from seedlings. Apple Computers, NEXT, and to some degree even Pixar, have been built from nothing, with most becoming successful ventures. In a BusinessWeek interview in 2004, Jobs shared, "I did everything coming up - shipping, sales, supply chain, sweeping the floors, buying chips, you name it. I put computers together with my own two hands. As the industry grew up, I kept on doing it." In spite of the numerous projects or activities that tug at his time, and the numerous distractions that could interfere with his ability to meet his primary goals, he refuses to be removed from each component of the work. Educational leaders must develop the same entrepreneurial spirit. They must understand each component of the work at a deep level. It means applying this understanding in creating and developing an educational institution that addresses the needs of all students, staff, and school community. It also means not allowing themselves to get distracted.

But how can educational leaders, who spend the majority of their time implementing the laws, policies, and compliance driven mandates, find the time and space to become more independent and refocused? Applying the entrepreneurial spirit the way Jobs has applied it to his work means becoming clear on the creation. Educational leaders must be clear on what it is they wish to create. If in a school, what kind of school community does the leader wish to create? If in an office, what kind of division, program, or district does the educational leader wish to create? Once it has been identified, the rest of the work is about building it with the same intensity Jobs built Apple Computers.
A good start is for educational leaders to get up off their chairs and leave their offices. They must start spending time with those doing the work. Visit classrooms, walk around the campus and the school community. Speak with the students, the faculty, and the staff. Attend faculty meetings. Department and grade-level meetings are great settings to participate in meaningful conversation about the work. Get out into the community, speak with the shop owners. Meet with members of the school community through community meetings. Attend events sponsored by organizations in the community. Use the information gleaned to learn about the school, division, or district - it also has the nurturant effect of helping leaders build stronger relationships.

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