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Leadership as Fearless Inquiry

Don't listen to the person who has the answers…

By Kevin Bartlett, Founding Director of the CGC

When we take on leadership positions, especially early in our careers, we may think that we're supposed to have 'all the answers'. We can't. It's really that simple...and the reassuring thing is that ​always ​having the answers is not that important. It's more important to approach change leadership as a lifelong process of 'fearless inquiry'. While we don't need all the answers, we will add real value to our communities if we can bring good questions.

The CGC Ecosystem is built on five:

  • What IS learning?

  • What's WORTH learning?

  • How does EVERYONE access learning?

  • How do we build learning CULTURES?

  • How do we provide EVIDENCE of learning?

That's it. Five questions to help us Define, Design, Diversify, Deliver and Demonstrate Learning. 

At a more granular level, questions really come into their own. A few examples:

The Questions: Why lead? Why should anyone be led by me? Leading towards what?

The Why: If we don't have answers that convince ourselves, we're unlikely to convince anyone else.

The Question: If we could only do one thing well next year, which thing would have the biggest positive learning impact on the most students?

The Why: We're seeing a massive impact in schools that abandon multiple, fragmented teacher goal setting in favor of one, collective, high-impact goal on which we all work together. 

The Question: What will get better as a result of this meeting?

The Why: We absorb huge amounts of teacher/leader energy in meetings. If we don't have a convincing answer to the above question, cancel the meeting.

The Question: Is this the simplest way of doing it?

The Why: Schools may spend eye-watering consultancy fees on developing complex 'Strategic Plans' that simply never get implemented. There are engaging, affordable, alternative ways to decide what to do next. Watch this space...

And so on... Agendas improve if the items are framed as a question. Questions provide focus and, as a language form, they are a call to action. In CGC we offer an extended leadership engagement...it will be on offer ​from July 17th-22nd,​ in Panama City, Panama. The title​ is a question​: 'WHY LEAD?'. One of the things we ​will ​do together is to define leadership. In keeping with the theme of this post, here's a possible start:

Leadership is the ability to bring the most significant, relevant questions to our community, and then facilitate the process of reaching a consensus that we will all live by.

That's rough, but it may have promise. What do you think?

Don't listen to the person who has the answers. Listen to the person who has the questions”. - A.Einstein.