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Leadership Endings and Personal Lessons

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Thumbnail image for leadership 360 final post.pngFor everything there is a season. A time for every purpose. From scripture to modern poetry and song, this sense of the rhythm of life is sustained and truthful. Spring is at the cusp of summer now and the natural world is greening up and bursting forth. Many see it as a new beginning. We think of ends. Educators have a sense of the follow of time different from those in other professions. For us, each year ends twice, once at the end of the calendar year and once at the end of the school year. Seniors graduate and other students, at least most of them, move upward through the system. Even though we have not been a part of the school year ending for years now, it still lives in us. And, therefore, we are choosing this month to end our blog, Leadership 360,  

Books, blogs, and articles are published all the time. Consultants thrive on the desire of educators to grow and stay on the cutting edge. And we aspire every year to make a positive difference in how to be, how to lead, and how to serve. Servant leadership, transactional leadership, transitional leadership, and change leadership in a long enough career we have studied them all. Some have found icons to revere and follow and others have taken all that they have learned and made it their own. Regardless of how many are on the same journey, the steps are each our own.

For five and a half years, three times a week, we have published our leadership blog. Occasionally publishing a guest piece, we have written, and some of you have read, nearly 800 posts. We continue to learn and are honored to have a platform to share our thoughts with educators who are looking to hear from others. We hope we have provoked some new thinking, supported some of your work, and planted a few seeds. We are stepping away from blogging now. Looking back, we want to share a bit of the unexpected gift of co-authorship and the new understandings we gained from writing as one voice for these years. We learned that the process of writing each piece together: 

  • Reinforced the shared belief that two leaders from widely different backgrounds could find strong agreement and disagree with respectful energy
  • Forced us to wrestle ideas to the point where words could express them jointly
  • Opened us to profound trust, offering our writing to another for their hand to rework and, yes, but only rarely, reject
  • Released us from the political constraints of our former leadership lives to exercise voice and speak freely, seeking , in fact, sometimes, to disturb as well as encourage
  • Taught us that Jill's careful planning and Ann's unfettered spontaneity created a blog which we hope was current and relevant, grounded and provocative  

It has been an unexpected deeply personal process. And though there have been days when one or both of us were tired and uninspired, it has been a joy to be part of this Ed Week opportunity. We are grateful.

Technology allowed us, living hours apart and seldom in each other's presence, to share the writing process. Sometimes, we emailed a word doc back and forth. Other times we shared a google doc. We were committed to our deadlines and made time in our lives for the work. Our partners would say it has been the most time consuming, unpaid work we have ever taken on as professionals.  

Writing with someone else isn't for everyone; but those who pursue this option will test and build their ability to trust and be trustworthy. Accepting feedback as a regular way of working is unfamiliar to many but we have found it strengthening. Writing forces one to struggle with the one word and then to open up to others. Were the words the right ones? Was the message we wanted to send the one that our readers received? Unlike the verbal world we often worked within, writing demands the personal time to think and reflect. Writing causes time to be still. What a gift that has been in this world of change and movement.  

And, although each piece of writing has been between the two of us, it has contributed to the building of community. Leadership 360 has grown into a network of colleagues. We respect this community immensely and we hope to continue, actively, as members of the community for years to come. We have learned from you and have deeply appreciated your readership. 

There is a blog in us which will not be written but we cannot end Leadership 360 without a nod to Senator John McCain. He is teaching us still about leadership and courage and vulnerability. Such strength and determination and clarity of purpose cannot be matched. But, the blog to write about the lessons he teaches us as leaders is someone else's to write. 

Themes of inclusiveness, of passion and purpose, of questioning and listening, and of integrity, respect and courage permeate our five years of writing. They are attributes of leadership that go beyond the knowledge and skill of the work itself. Without them, one cannot lead. We end here, for now, with the ending words of our very first blog. They are the words of John Seely Brown in The Power of Community.

It's never enough just to tell people about some new insight,
Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way
that evokes its power and possibility. Instead of pouring
knowledge into people's heads, you need to help them grind
a new set of eyeglasses so they can see the world in a 
new way.
--Jon Seely Brown

Resource:
Brown, John Seely (1998). Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation, Boston: Harvard Business Review

 Ann Myers and Jill Berkowicz are the authors of The STEM Shift (2015, Corwin) a book about leading the shift into 21st century schools. Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

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