As we reach the darkening days of November, I reach for books I read in the sunny days of July to keep me going until the holiday breaks. Last week I shared a couple of inspirational books that I’m still thinking about. This week I wanted to share two more.
Linchpin by Seth Godin
In Linchpin, Godin debunks the old myth that “no one is irreplaceable.” This is a tired phrase still used in many workplaces, especially in education, where the sentiment seems even more ludicrous than in business. So many schools and districts spend all kinds of effort, time, and money to standardize expectations and curriculum “just in case we have new teachers.” Let’s all do this the same way, we say, so that new teachers will know what to do when we hire them. Let’s all teach the same curriculum because students might transfer from one school to another.
While we should always seek to make transitions as easy as possible for students, and while we should definitely develop a new generation of teachers, master teachers are never easily replicated. This is Godin’s point. Great employees of any organization work like artists, and their work is unique. If we want our organizations to thrive, we need to celebrate the artistic work of our best employees. Furthermore, in the hiring process, schools should seek out artistic talent.
As an employee, I find great hope from Godin’s work that I can discover and grow my own unique abilities, knowing that I’m much more than a cog in a content-delivery machine.
As a campus leader, I find inspiration from Godin’s work to look for the unique abilities in other teachers, acknowledging and celebrating them to make our school even greater.
Tribes by Seth Godin
If Linchpin describes the kind of irreplaceable leaders we can become, Tribes describes the communities of people waiting for our leadership. The world no longer seeks the status quo; we now seek the heretics, the rule-breakers, the niche, the weird.
How can we leverage this in education?
The Internet has made it possible for tribes of educators to share ideas and stories. The walls of the old organizational hierarchies and loyalties are coming down.
Good leaders today are often seen as heretics. In truth, this isn’t just today: see also every scientist who first proposed a controversial theory or every innovative artist. Godin argues that if our work isn’t being criticized, it simply might not be that important:
“Remarkable visions and genuine insights are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths – whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it’s over. If it were any other way, it would be easy. And if it were any other way, everyone would do it and your work would ultimately be devalued. The yin and yang are clear: without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it’s unlikely to be worth the journey. Persist.”
Leading a tribe requires courage and persistence. Leading a tribe requires a commitment to the mission more than the money (which is pretty good news for most educators!). Leading a tribe requires lots and lots of time and patience.
In the end, this courage, persistence, commitment, and patience can all lead to some really exciting innovation.
What are you reading this week? What books help you in the dark days of oncoming winter?