Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, said the following:
You cannot force commitment. What you can do … you nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create.
“As a leader, how do you get people to do what you want them to do, or is this not even your idea of what a leader does?” In response to this question, I would have to say that this is not my idea of what a leader does because true leadership is not about pushing your agenda upon others. Please forgive me if I get deep and philosophical in this post, but this topic is one close to my heart. Leadership should never be about “getting people to do” certain things. Senge is spot on when he says, “You cannot force commitment. . . your primary influence is the environment you create.” Jesus says in Mark 10:43, “He who wants to be great among you, must be servant of all.”
Free will is the sacred gift bestowed upon all from God Himself, and I believe it is a grave sin to violate that free will through force, pressure, manipulation, or oppression. It is best encapsulated in Christ’s phrase, “Whosoever will.” Unfortunately, a lot of schools and educational leaders become oppressors as they force their visions upon schools and teachers. Paulo Freire, an educational philosopher, in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, says, “the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate ‘things.’ This tendency of the oppressor consciousness to ‘in-animate’ everything and everyone it encounters. . . corresponds with sadism. . . They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than a thousand actions in their favor without that trust” (1970, p. 41-42). John Holt, another revolutionary educational thinker, in his book Freedom and Beyond says, “no one can find his work, what he really wants to put all of himself into, when everything he does he is made to do by others. This kind of searching must be done freely or not at all” (1972, p.57). I Corinthians 13 says, “Love always. . .trusts. . .”
So how does one lead, then? You lead by the “environment you create” --your attitudes. First, you lead through the attitude of respect for the humanity of your followers, and because of that respect, you are willing to suffer for their freely chosen mistakes and support them in their part within your organization. Secondly, you lead through trust. God puts in the hearts of people His dreams for them, and if you are their leader, you are to trust that God will use their skills, talents, and even failures to drive the agenda in which He wants you to lead them. Only then does the “nudging” and “inspiring” have a place.
The “nudging” is the “planting of the seed”—the new idea, the action that helps people overcome their weakness, or the clearing of the path for them to go through. Sometimes they have a mental roadblock you must help them overcome through the “nudge” of new information, belief in their abilities, or godly discipline. The “inspiring” might be like the word I spoke to my student teacher when I told her of a time that I went through a similar experience and overcame. It is also the belief in the abilities and potential of those you serve. The “providing a role model” is the most important element of all, for it is what truly inspires others to follow you of their own free will. When you are willing to chase the vision first, to put forth the effort and dedication despite the cost to yourself, speak with passion of it, and then give your very life energy towards that goal, you embody the spirit of Christ who gave all when He was “lifted up” upon a cross of suffering and thereby “draws all men to Himself” (John 12:32).
If we are to lead our educational institutions towards school improvement using data as a primary tool, we must believe in it and commit our own selves to it first. Then we can gently nudge and inspire those around us to engage in the journey as well.
Freire, Paulo (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Holt, John (1972). Freedom and beyond. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook.
Senge, Peter M. (2006). The fifth discipline. New York: Doubleday/Currency.