Lessons Learned – Hacking Leadership

I have spent the better part of this summer reading several books on leadership… not because I’m required, but because they just sounded interesting. One in particular was Hacking Leadership by Joe Saneflippo and Tony Sinanis.

Hacking Leadership is full of great ideas and opportunities for reflection. I love that Saneflippo and Sinanis are both practitioners so you don’t get theory tied in a pretty bow, but you get real ideas that have been put into practice with varying degrees of success. I never get tired of hearing great leaders talk about getting out of the office and into the school and community as you don’t change schools simply by “sending emails and scheduling meetings”.

Our schools should be playgrounds of creativity.

Hacking Leadership is filled with great quotes like the one above. Our students are motivated by play, but I believe it also stands to reason our adults would be as well… if they were allowed to stretch, try, and grow in new and unpredictable learning environments.

As I was reading Hacking Leadership, I kept a list of those things that kept coming up in my mind as areas I could influence to make a difference in education. Here are a few that really resonate with me as I’m writing my goals for the upcoming year:

Effective Communication

In order to be effective, communication has to be timely and consistent. Gone are the days where information is scarce or that we must spend weeks crafting the most elegant posts. Now it is about curating the most impactful content and sharing it in a way others are motivated to engage. This includes changing the way we view email correspondence and ensure we aren’t losing our personal touch (aka a phone call or face-to-face contact) due to a perceived efficiency of a quickly crafted email. I loved the quote on Page 64, “Flattening the walls of your school entails eliminating the communication barriers so everyone feels like they are part of the school community.” Words and actions are powerful and should be used positively and productively by all stakeholders to build a shared culture of creativity and collaboration.

Amplify our Story

Sometimes, we need to capture an authentic moment and let it stand on its own. In order to create more transparency in the educational community, it is our job to find ways to connect with people through pictures, stories, and videos to really share what life is like as a student in our schools. This year we must educate students, parents, and community through connected experiences so that they may build an understanding of the importance of social media. Our goal will be to provide engaging content and multiple opportunities to connect.

Building Capacity

A stagnate social media channel is a lost opportunity which builds holes in our collective story. It is so easy to start and yet often challenging to keep the momentum going. The power of social media isn’t in how many people are following you, but how connected conversations can impact your ideas, thoughts, and actions. I always geek out when I interact with people via social media when I would otherwise have no opportunity for connection. As an example, I tweeted out Sanfelippo and Sinanis and within 24 hours heard back from both! Does that help me buy into their message? You better believe it! Connections build relationships which absolutely help you take notice as you are forming opinions and generating ideas.

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School Should Be Student-Centered

We want schools to work for our kids. I have two of them in this system and I hope each year that they have teachers who nurture their interests and help build them into critical thinkers and problem solvers. Sometimes I struggle when I see assignments and think back to the days where I was a teacher and know there are reasons behind what kids are doing. The disconnect comes is when students don’t understand why they are engaging in a particular learning process and it is up to us as educators to be crystal clear on this point. Better yet, I’d like to see more choice and voice in assignments that builds in student ownership in learning.

Moving from Point A to Point B

I don’t believe I have ever met an educator that didn’t believe in life-long learning. Adults are just very good at expressing their distaste for irrelevant or disconnected professional learning. Educators will do the work when it is applicable to their lives. We need more opportunities for our adults to learn in engaging experiences that stretch past content and makes connections across disciplines. Vary rarely in life do we ever do anything in isolation and it is time that education replicates the types of experiences students will face when they leave our protected walls.

I don’t believe education is fundamentally broken. It appears as though every generation has expressed its fair share of educational issues. I do think that because of the connected world we live in we haven’t harnessed the full computing power that is available to us. Perhaps it is because it wasn’t the way we learned or are comfortable learning, perhaps it is because change is simply uncomfortable. All we can ask of any educator is that we all continue learning and growing and bring these experiences back to our schools. Will it be hard work? Sure… but our kids are worth it!

How will you inspire learning for students, teachers, and your community?




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