Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Power of Connections

I love stories.  I love the power of stories and the capacity they carry to teach lessons.  One that comes to mind concerning the school leaders is the story of William Dawes.  William Dawes was a peer of Paul Revere, and charged with the same task to ride out and send word of the British army’s arrival in the greater Lexington area.  While Paul took one route, William took another.  You are quite familiar with the Ride of Paul Revere, so why doesn’t the Dash of William Dawes make it into the history books?

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell points out the message the two individuals was exactly the same: it was a critical message that would influence the length and outcome of the war.  The difference was not in the message that was being sent, but in the connection of the individuals to the greater community.  Revere was very well connected: He was a member of a number of civic organizations, active in the community, was well-versed in a variety of topics and could have a conversation with almost any person about anything (usually in a pub).  Dawes, on the other hand, was not connected to the community.  While he was a patriot and knowledgeable individual, he simply was an unknown and not connected to the greater community.  As a result, Dawes message was largely disregarded.

As education leaders, it is important that we are not only known to our immediate school community, but that we allow our influence to grow beyond within our district, into the state, and even nationally.  Today’s leaders are not only charged with taking care of their own backyard, but using their influence concerning the entire landscape of the education at the local level and beyond.  That is why being active learners ourselves is so important, and we do it best through connections, #edcamps, and learning networks. It is also why we should join professional associations.  I'm a proud member and past officer of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals (@MoAESP), and have been a proud member of National Association of Elementary School Principals (@NAESP) during the tenure of my school leadership.

Belonging to local, state & national organizations is a win-win, both for you as an individual and for the organizations.  It is a chance to collaborate with principals in your region and across the state.  It is a means to connect and communicate with a greater audience concerning the value and importance of supporting public education and the impact that leadership has upon learning and culture.  It is an opportunity to work alongside leaders from within and outside education organizations to critically think and work toward a greater common good and increasing the the quality of life by those we impact. And finally, active membership provides learning connections and opportunities from each other, which in turn prompts creative and innovative solutions in navigating our ever-changing landscape.

The education leader of today has a job description that makes them, in short, nothing less than a connected marvel who is everything to everybody.  It is a difficult task, but one that can be accomplished, especially with the support of others in the same cause.  So take a moment to reflect upon the lesson of William Dawes.  How can you increase your leverage and connection?  In what ways can you increase your capacity? How might you serve your community and tell your story?  For me, being a part of something bigger has connecting points for all areas.  Please join me in encouraging fellow leaders to join in our efforts as we connect people to purpose.