NAIS Chats with Center for Creative Leadership on Redefining Leadership for 21st Century Schools

Editor’s note: I recently conducted a two-part podcast about the changing nature of leadership and its application in schools with Christopher Ward, a project director at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). In the first clip, Chris describes CCL’s leadership model and how it can be applied in school challenges. In the second clip, he describes CCL’s focus on developing the next generation of leaders.

CCL’s Leadership Model and Work in Schools

  • Chris outlines CCL’s unique model of leadership and its place in the 21st century (at 0:45).
  • He articulates how the model can be used to strengthen school governance (at 4:46).
  • He takes us inside CCL’s work with schools from the conception to the evaluation stages (8:38).

An Emphasis on Cultivating Young Leaders

  • Chris defines the systemic approach CCL believes is needed and underused now (at 0:37).
  • He offers advice to school leaders about nurturing young people as leaders (at 6:18).  
Excerpts on CCL’s Model of Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (from Clip 1)
“Our model is a little bit of a twist that moves beyond the idea of leaders and followers … what we see in the 21st century and the new economy and the new world [is] that there’s a climate that really demands an interdependence between a lot of different people to get work done….” 
“Our model is very simple. It is not easy but it is simple. And we find that to be very important so that we actually have a chance of implementing it. So our model is unique because it’s less about the people involved, whether you’re a leader or a follower, and more about the outcomes of good leadership.”
“It identifies three outcomes for effective leadership … direction, alignment, and commitment. And so what we’re proposing is that leadership is really about creating shared direction and what are our goals and are they clear to us; what is our vision, do we all understand that?”
“The second component is alignment; alignment is about roles and responsibilities and based on that vision, those shared goals, do we have clear roles and responsibilities set up for the team, the group, the community that’s trying to move towards those goals?”
“The final outcome … is commitment and that is managed over time, that energy unto those goals, the desire that anyone would have and their ability to invest in the time, their gifts, the resources, needed to really to follow through on that day-to-day, week-to-week, sometimes year-to-year.”
Excerpts on Applying CCL’s Model in Governance Matters (from Clip 1)

“For example, a board coming in, even on-ramping new board members, if you clearly articulated your direction and the alignment that the board has with school leaders, what role the board plays, and what role the school leaders play, and how they interact, and then the commitment, why it’s important, what’s the rational for this, what’s the urgency for this work, … [the model] allows [board] on-ramping to be really much, much easier because it very quickly orients your board members to what you’re trying to accomplish.”
I think additionally then [the model] informs how you recruit board members, how board members are selected, … and it creates really good alignment between why someone would be interested in being a part of the board and the real work that needs to be done.”
“In an ongoing sense, I think [the model] generates the kind of clarity and ongoing fidelity to your goals and collaborative process that can really make a board effective. So, for example, in a capital campaign situation, what is it that we’re trying to accomplish and why? … And how do we create talking points for our board members and others who are going out and really communicating the vision in a way that is the same across stakeholders and to different community members?”
“It’s a very strong coalesced message that’s going out. And then … [the model] creates the kind of alignment in getting the work done between different people that clearly identifies who the chairs of the campaign might be, who is playing different roles….”
“[The model] brings clarity. It mobilizes people nicely. And I think it has the potential to create longitudinal integrity as well, as board members move on and off. If you are tracking your direction, alignment, and commitment well through different seasons, it allows you to kind of keep that line that otherwise you’re purely relying on the institutional memory and the overlap in members.”

Excerpts on CCL’s Work with Schools (from Clip 1)

“We really begin conversation with people … with a mindset that’s most recently been described through design thinking, as we come in very much as partners in the work … we sit down together and go through a discovery phase where we say: What is it that you’re interested in, and why are we at the table together? What is your vision? What are your goals that are really compelling to you that feel really juicy and important? And where is this Venn diagram of our expertise and leadership and our research and experience and training and development and coaching, where does that serve you well?”
“And through that conversation and through data collection and interviews, their focus groups, surveys, we right-size it for the need of each school or community, but through that discovery process, we then are able to truly put our finger on what is it that we are looking for?”
“We bring developmental lessons that span from age 4 to age 18 as well as faculty development, training, and senior leader training, board training. We have a lot to offer but would never assume that any of those solutions are the solution for every school.”
“As we move forward, it’s about building the capacity of a school to accomplish its goals. We aren't interested in necessarily working in perpetuity with every school. Though we love the ongoing relationships that we create, what we’re really trying to accomplish is to build the capacity of each school to uniquely bring leadership development to their communities and provide whatever support we can to that process.”
“Lastly, I think the important thing to say is that we really do try to evaluate and assess constantly what we’re doing and ask ourselves is what we’re doing working? ... Part of what the Center brings to the table is a really robust evaluation team that serves all of our clients from corporate clients to nonprofit clients to our school clients. And so, we build evaluation, plans, and strategies that allow us to follow up the work, be it longitudinal and ongoing, or even just one-off training over a weekend. We follow it up with data and conversation to make sure that learning and development continue.”

Excerpts on CCL’s “Multi-layered, Multi-stakeholder, and Systemic Leadership Solution” to Developing Young Leaders (from Clip 2)

“The idea behind all of us, as schools and those who are invested in the next generation of leaders, is to create an environment where every student who comes to a school has the opportunity to develop as a leader deeply and effectively … they are emerging into a collegiate environment with a robust and clear jump-start on their peers in terms of understanding how to approach getting things done, understanding anything from empathy to collaboration, anything from self-awareness to communication to strategy and vision.”
“It always comes down to how are we developing our young people at a different level and with greater intention? These are things that independent schools have done and done well, many of them for a long, long time. But what we’re finding is that very few [independent schools] have truly tried a systems-approach to impact all students to bring great intentionality to leadership, to development for their young people that matches the same kinds of intentionality and building scopes and sequences of development for curriculum, for mathematics, for English, for politics, for all kinds of things.”
“Then faculty and staff, those delivering, need the training to be able to deliver that in a powerful way, and that’s an area that isn't usually why they were hired for their position… We need to work with students and then faculty and then … we need to create a culture, a community, a school institution that is characterized by the same values and approaches that we’re trying to teach in terms of leadership. What we’re really trying to do when we’re trying to develop a young person or anyone is create a very consistent environment that supports their learning.”

Excerpts of Chris’s Advice to School Leaders on Developing Students as Leaders (from Clip 2)

“I think one of the most powerful things a school leader can do is really assess the needs of the institution that go beyond the tyranny of the urgent. And that’s always a huge challenge because there’s so many things that we need to be responsive to: the parent that calls with a need today; the very many logistical things, the things that happened with students over the last weekend that need response and care, the fidelity to good scope and sequence and curricular implementation….”
“Usually somebody is not calling on the phone or sending an email saying, ‘I need a response from you on this today about whether or not you’ve developed my young person as a leader today or we’re removing our student from school.’ That’s typically not the urgent need. But it is in the long-term an incredibly urgent need. So I think that one of the most important things school leaders can do is really listen to their communities, keep an eye on that long-game, and be open to asking the questions, to step outside the loops of speed and demand, and have some of these conversations that are so important and commit to nurturing over time.”
Ari Pinkus
Ari Pinkus

Ari Pinkus is digital editor and producer at NAIS.


Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.

To post a comment, please log in.

Click here to log in