Leadership – Valuing Dissonance.

It can be argued that the only job of a leader is to strategically keep an organisational culture on a path towards the vision.  Let me define management as the day to day tasks which are involved in the running of an organisation

This is often constrained by the need for the leader to step into a management mindset to reaffirm and sure up skills before stepping back into leadership. (Wallace 2004, calls this the meta-task of orchestrations).

The leadership of any organisation is dependent on its followers and stakeholders, of course, models of change which involve mass exodus of the staff body bring about shifts in culture. However, within many contexts, this simply isn’t an option, for reasons such as recruitment and more so due to social and moral integrity.

The vision should be set out early by leaders, this means followers, can make their own choices on whether they choose to follow or not follow. This may to seen as a risky strategy. What happens if are mass of followers who cause dissent and refuse to participate? Here I would go back to your core purpose, interrogate the core purpose of the resistors and re-evaluate the vision of the initiative. Analysis of the shifts post introduction I refer to as the observation phase.

Organisations will always take the path of least resistance. There will be resistance to any change, no matter how glaringly positive, articulate and succinct the vision is. Prepare yourself for this. 

Through the observation phase. Identify your resistors, the people who will hold sway in staff rooms, the power players with the staff and… talk to them. Take real value in their views, the success of the uptake/buy-in may depend on listening to those misaligned as you are sure to get a more honest appraisal from them.

The first step in any change is trust, trust is always built through conversation and then the resulting actions. Leadership literature rarely references ‘talk’ to build trust. The first step in any change is trust, trust is always built through conversation and then the resulting actions.  Your resistors are in many cases your greatest asset. These are not only the people in your organisation with natural leadership potential but with the strength and bravery to challenge your vision/ actions because it doesn’t align with their own. 

‘They are challenging my authority that can’t be a good thing’.

Well that depends on why they are challenging you, is it because they fundamentally disagree with you, your policies or is it because your vision is quite right, is it articulated clearly? 

Leading people is always about personal gain for the follower, whether that is moral, financial or social gain. As a leader you have control of all three, controlling someone pay is a sure fire way of making people do what you want. However, this will create nothing but an echo chamber within your organisation. 

If this is the only means a leader leads, the only currency a follower has is blind faith and unforgiving allegiance. Fear is stepping out of line could mean a falling out of favour, ‘you paid to do this and keep stum about it’.

Many teachers are naturally drawn to the ‘vocation’ nature of our profession. There is an inherent value in working with young people. The salary is often a side to this.  What does that mean? Working in school leadership relies heavily on moral and social gain for your followers.

Leadership is about integrity, I fundamentally believe that it is never about one person exerting their power over another, followership is a choice. This choice is not necessarily linked whether they choose to work for the organisation or not.

If it’s not about power, how do I make change without solely directing people?

This is why I have always advocated a protracted time as a middle leadership before senior leadership. At those levels you have no real ‘power’, skills in manipulation (or a more positive word charm) have to be employed. Leaders at these levels have to rely on their personal or team integrity to recruit followers to their vision. 

Senior leadership should involve exactly the same process. Remember leadership is never about individual ego but the ‘we go’ of the organisation.

Resistor Check List 

  1. Is my vision clear in the mind of my followers? What will I have to clarify with the resistors?
  2. Is this reaction simply fear of change? Will this subside naturally? Do I need to reassure with my integrity?
  3. What are their concern and ideas? Are they and do they feel valued?
  4. How are you going to support this passion to bring about positive change? 
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