Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mistakes That Leaders Make, Part 1: It’s Not All About You

Welcome to another week of 21st Century School Leadership.

As I try to get creative with this blog that will, hopefully, support school leaders in their work of advancing education and student achievement, I will be attempting to write a series of articles over the next few weeks on the topic of ‘Mistakes School Leaders Make”, and how to correct them to keep your leadership and school organization working in the right direction…supporting student achievement.
 I call this series Mistakes That Leaders Make.

I am posting my first chapter in this series called: “It’s not all about you.”

Nothing paralyzes an organization more than a school leader that is on an ego trip. Learning communities become polarized when the arrogance, self-centered, and narcissistic attitude of the leader gets in the way of running the organization.  The cohesiveness of  wonderful school communities can be destroyed when a school leader thinks in this manner.

According to Robert Church: “I have witnessed leaders in organizations repeatedly put their own personal interests above the interests of the organization. There are many challenges with this behavior. The most concerning however, is that the organization cannot reach its potential unless its leadership puts the interests of the organization ahead of their own interests.[1]

The trail of problems that can occur because of this self-centered leadership style can create ethical and moral consequences as well. “It is easy for corporate scandals to reach the public within a short time. Organizations often have policies that facilitate ethical behavior within the workplace. The challenge for managers is to promote an ethical organizational behavior and culture such that employees will not put their individual interests ahead of organizational interests. Personal interest is an aspect of organizational behavior and managers face the task of encouraging group interest over personal interest so as to preserve ethical values.”[2]

Shawn Murphy (2010) describes this phenomenon as a leader that is suffering from delusions. He lists the following symptoms of this delusion:
1.     Erratic and inconsistent behaviors on important organizational topics that are high-profile or important at the moment
2.     Decisions are made by the delusional manager to increase his visibility within the organization or with the Board
3.     Wildly different behaviors surface when with other leaders compared to a one-on-one or in small group settings
4.     Politicking to advance the supposed leader’s projects but cloaked in language to support the good of the organization
5.     The delusional manager is incapable of seeing the impact of his or her ideas on the organization, the employees, and the customer
6.     Rhetoric and big promises are commonly shared with senior executives AND are accepted
7.     Other managers avoid saying anything about the delusional manager
8.     When it comes to the delusional manager’s work area, staff are confused about what’s going on
9.     Employee satisfaction in the delusional manager’s area is low
10. The CEO is unaware of the impact the delusional manager is having on teams, groups, and individuals
11. Deadlines are missed and quality of work is often poor
12. Staff do not speak up about the delusional manager’s excuses for missed deadlines, effect on the work environment, or poor work quality[3]

So, how do leaders correct this posture of self-centered leadership? Learn to become a people-centered leader or organization. Learn listen to others. Develop a sound shared-decision making model that demonstrates that your ability to listen and follow through meets the needs of the people you work with. Unfortunately, often, the self-centered leader never fully sees himself/herself as being this way, thus continuing to be part of an allusion of self-competence. The onus then is placed on the organizational Board of Directors to make it clear to the CEO or Superintendent that their leadership style is contrary to the good of the organization. Sometimes, it may even mean replacing the individual.

The things that should be looked for in a leader for a school organization is someone that embodies the ideas of principle-centered leadership, where values and goals are based on organizational needs and strengths. As Stephen Covey reminds us, the heart of quality organizational leadership is based on the following: 1) the primary purpose of the organization; 2)  its desired future; and 3) its core beliefs about itself and others.[4]

Schools are about kids, not the leader. Get it right.

[1] Church, R. (February 12, 2012). Leaders in your association put the association interests or personal interests first?. [BLOG] Associations, Volunteerism, and More. Retrieved September 15, 2012 at
[2] Wicks, D. (Date?) What are the challenges faced by organizational behavior?. [BLOG] Retrieved September 15, 2012 at
[3] Murphy, S. (2010). The delusions of a self-centered leader. Retrieved from September 18, 2012 at
[4] Covey, S. (n.d.). Principle centered leadership. Retrieved from 2 principle centered leadership.pdf