10 Principles for Leading Change


cc licensed image shared by flikr user sakocreative
cc licensed image shared by flikr user sakocreative

“Too bold. Not bold enough. Too fast. Not fast enough.” As school leaders, administration and teachers alike, seek to enhance and even redefine the quality of learning and community for our students, we often hear variations on these four critiques.  At times in the past I’ve been accused of being too bold and too fast, to the point of appearing impulsive. And thus, in a recent coaching session, I was startled by my mentor’s suggestion that I strive to build on positive momentum and be bolder and faster or at least to consider more carefully the balance between being too bold and not bold enough, too fast and not fast enough. His words, part compliment and part critique, were a first after several years of coaching through which, among many other goals, I have sought to enhance my ability to “lead from the middle”, and not run out too far ahead of our teachers, being too bold and too fast. His challenge has me wondering. How can we consider the vital role of pacing in improving our schools? How can we consider not only time, but timing, as a precious resource? How can we be faster and bolder, while remaining thoughtful, patient and reflective?

Ten principles can guide us in leading change, managing the careful balance necessary between being too bold or not bold enough; too fast or not fast enough.

  • Say “yes” to those who seek to experiment and try approaches new to them, and new to the school, as often as possible
  • Be patient with those moving at a slower pace 
  • Embrace the perspectives of all, making disagreement and skepticism safe
  • Compliment and show appreciation for the individual contributions of all
  • Believe in the potential of teachers and students to achieve great things
  • Provide robust job embedded support and opportunities to learn
  • Encourage experimentation and embrace mistakes made while learning and striving to move forward
  • Celebrate successes, small and large
  • Recognize when you have gone too far, too fast and be prepared to slow down, reflect, and consider approaches anew
  • Have fun

What principles might you add? What approaches have you found effective in balancing the pacing of change?

Cross Posted in Sharing our Blessings by Shira Leibowitz (@shiraleibowitz) 


  1. Walt said:

    Connect changes to each other & to the vision. Helping others see how the changes work together in a positive way seems to allow them to embrace (or at least accept) those changes.

    March 15, 2014
  2. Rick Repicky said:

    This dilemma points out the “artistry” required for leading change. No book or workshop can tell one when or how hard to push for change. Change leaders need a core team of teacher leaders who support the change but will report back on the issues among the staff and advise on how to overcome them.

    March 16, 2014
  3. Jacques Cool said:

    Generate sustainable change WITH your community. Community to school, school to community. Its assets and resources, and the relevancy of project-based learning with and within community make school-community partnerships a win-win situation.

    March 16, 2014
  4. Rob Leis said:

    It is all about relationships. If you want to lead effective change, you must build positive relationships with your staff. They will be more likely to follow someone they trust and feel has their best interest at heart. The leader also has to trust the staff to bring in ideas that can help improve the school. I feel the idea of a leader out in front and everyone following is an ineffective way to bring change to a building. Teams researching strategies, discussing ideas, and sharing experiences will be much more effective.

    March 25, 2014

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