Leading by Learning -by Ben Grey

This week I participated in an activity that made me acutely aware of how difficult it can be to talk with leaders about leaders.

I'm presently participating in a leadership program through Johns Hopkins University and ISTE. Our program kicked off last Saturday at NECC, and at one point, we engaged in a group activity where we were tasked with creating an "inspirational quote" about leadership.

There are so many observations I could make about this experience. I could talk about what happens when aspiring leaders talk about inspiring leaders. I could talk about my own obvious weakness that is immediately evidenced when I work in a group setting. I could talk about how difficult it is to create anything inspirational with a group of people in fifteen minutes. But I think that which needs most discussion is the very idea of leadership.

Honestly, I can't even tell you what my group came up with for our quote. I can tell you, however, what was missing. In fact, it was missing from every group's definition. There were, of course, the smatterings of "empowering others," or "maximizing potential," and even a fair share of "creating a vision." But every definition was devoid of a direct reference to learning.

I'll readily admit, I'm not yet an expert of any sort on the topic of leadership. In fact, in so many ways, I'm just beginning to learn what it means to be a leader in the field of education, but the fact that I'm learning is significant. Because I think we all are, and we all should be. And I believe all leaders should be, above all else, the lead learners in the institution they are leading. Especially given the current context of the changing and shifting landscape we're experiencing in education as technology and pedagogy collide to provide new opportunities for our students to engage the process of learning.

If I had to construct a quote about leadership, I think I'd make my starting point, "Leaders are those who most publicly learn and bring others with them along the way." I know that's a very simplistic start, but I believe if every leader held learning at the heart of their leading, all the other aspects would fall into place. There would be the empowering of others and the maximizing of other's potential and the creation of a vision. Being a lead learner would facilitate a collective leadership rather than a directive leadership style. Everyone would be engaged in the process of learning, and key decisions would be made through the lens of what best promotes the capacity of the institution to foster an environment conducive to dynamic learning.

I hope to someday be a leader in the field of education, and it is my earnest hope that above all, I will value the invaluable process of learning.

This is the starting point from which I will work. I hope to learn and explore and seek to strengthen my philosophy of leadership, and I hope you will help me along the way. I might have this whole beginning started off in the wrong place, so I'll ask for your input and put the question to you. Where do you think we should start when discussing leadership in education?