The Strategic Lesson of Introspection
The Franciscan educator whose quote opens this post provides a simple yet powerful statement from which to reflect on the essence of learning. Such a sentiment resonates with us as we examine the words we reduced to writing throughout the course of this year. In the views posited we have found that self-awareness, communication, and leveraging assumptions were the distinct threads of thought present in each of our posts. From our experience, these areas are the attributes that drive meaningful change, as they are derived from a leader’s capacity to strive towards authenticity. This is in keeping with the general themes that frame our quest to put the vision and mission of S.A.G.E. to practice. However, they also reflect the discussions we have engaged with managers of our district charged with making decisions that have lasting consequences. In these conversations, our advice has suggested such attributes to be critical in creating or shifting an organizational culture. In short, those in positions of power must not simply accept or combat, but rather dissect and understand the current culture in order to strategically address inconsistencies. Our posts speak to this truth as each proposed ideas that emphasized the importance of garnering support through an understanding that promotes inclusive action. While we hope that our words are insightful to others, we believe this repository has served to center our approach to strategic planning. Moreover, it has enhanced the language of thought that bridges intuition with practical applications.
Through the Leadership Lens
The contextual demands of strategic leadership requires the self-awareness and self-knowledge necessary for meeting challenges with authenticity. To that end, the progression of thought that frames a plan must be built upon an understanding of the mechanisms available for developing the agility to engage complex cultures. In particular, at its heart, S.A.G.E. reflects the importance of patience when endeavoring to create symmetry within an environment. Accordingly, we believe forbearance is essential to establishing a space for the integrative thinking necessary for sustaining a strategic plan. To be transformative, these plans must embody the curiosity, creativity, and reflection central to fostering understanding and garnering buy-in. As such, being committed to the common good with a view towards equality fosters an obligation to something greater than self. With this, leaders can strive to create pockets of influence that foster a depth of relationship. Through a spirit of trust, a strategic thinker can advance the ideals which inspire a strategic plan that offers substantive change.
Strategic Thought in Public Education
Dissecting the structures of public education have validated much of the concerns we maintain limit the institution’s ability to shift beyond political expediency. As we have indicated in many of our posts, we suggest the root of the problem resides in a failure to look inward and reflect. The change we aspire to see demands an organizational commitment to examine the genesis of paradigms that are important to uncovering core competencies. As such, there is a need to continually encourage learning amongst all stakeholders in order for the sector to keep pace with the evolution of society. For education, that requires leaders to question the assumptions that have anchored the institution to archaic and ineffective organizational practices. In our estimation, this begins with an inclusive approach that seeks to employ Olson and Simerson’s (2015) suggestion to act on the input of followers. Unfortunately, in many instances, the intentionality necessary to operate beyond the hierarchical structure of public education simply doesn’t exist — truly complicating the ability to engender such shifts.
The Perspective of a Learner
To drive change you must convey purpose — this blog has assisted in providing us the opening to explore avenues of insight and research that builds and enhances the language to support our purpose. As strategic thinkers, uncovering proven strategies that focus an approach has been important in not only validating decisions we have made, but questioning the assumptions that brought them forth. Furthermore, a committed focus has allowed us to examine our decisions and foster connections with future initiatives. As we assess our first year in this medium, it is clear that the experience has afforded us the opportunity to embody Olson and Simerson’s (2015) belief that the root of insight resides in the meaningful reflection of personal experience. However, such insights will only register if we are willing to question those assumptions that frame the paradigms of our experience.
Exerting Effort Towards a Vision
Valuing and leveraging becomes effective and efficient when leaders use introspection to develop strategic plans. The development of our blog reflected the essence of this critical element. We thoroughly enjoyed the challenges that were put forth, as it forced us to pause, reflect, and deepen our capacity as practitioners. On this journey, a learner needs to secure enduring understanding. By getting inside the content and making it relevant to purpose the blog became a meaningful learning experience. The lessons garnered from our decision to embark on this path demonstrated the natural workings of a collaborative effort—lessons that districts across the country would be well-served to embrace. For learners are best served when decisions are centered on a meaningful quest for durable understanding.
Olson, A.K., & Simerson, B.K. (2015). Leading with strategic thinking: Four ways effective leaders gain insight, drive change, and get results. Wiley.