28 Jan 2016

Are you a Shoshin Leader?

Are you a Shoshin Leader?

In Fredrick Hess’s book “Cage Busing Leadership” he asks readers if they are  shoshin leaders.  The Zen Buddists believe shosin is to look at situations with a “beginners mind”.  Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink define this approach as “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”  Are you a shosin leader?

Truly effective leaders instinctively and intentionally live out this belief through their actions.  For school decision makers this approach is counter intuitive to institutional training, practices and belief structures.  Typical school leadership practices approach continuous improvement with the mentality of how do they address the issue within the existing institutional structures.  From the onset this typical approach will yield typical results.

Reform efforts need to be approached with a fresh set of eyes open to all possibilities for truly impactful and sustainable results to occur.  Shoshin leaders need to have the courage to withstand the institutional resistance that will come in an attempt to protect status quo.  These transformational leaders must also have the courage to relinquish positional authority and practice distributive leadership.  Distributive leadership comes through empowerment, collaboration and shared accountability as the norm and expectation for all.

We were all born with innate curiosity and over time social norming confines our instincts.  Leaders cannot fly in the face of institutional practice but rather, find ways to change the belief structures that define the culture.  Curiosity will breed innovation.  Are you a shoshin leader?  If not, should you be?

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