Leading With Our Linchpins

A must read: Godin's "Linchpin"

“The problem is that most schools don’t like great teachers.  They’re organized to stamp them out, bore them, bureaucratize them, and make them average.” — Seth Godin

How many educators do you know that try to change the system of education?  How many educators do you know that just stick to the status quo?  How are these two different types of people treated by school and district leaders?

As a principal, I want people who challenge the education system and take risks to benefit our kids.  I want people that say the way we have always done things is not the best way.  I want people who reflect on current structures and practices and say to themselves: is this what is best for kids?  I cannot recall who stated this but if we continue to do what we have always done, we will get what we have always had.  To me, that’s not good enough.

In the past year, I have spoken to a number of people who are trying to create change in their classrooms and in the schools but have been told to “toe the line” both by administrators and colleagues.  These important educators have been told to follow their lizard brain and conform, comply and follow instructions.  Does this sound familiar?  Is this what many schools also teach our kids?  Is this what we actually want in our education system?

It is EASY to do what has always been done.  When you do this, you rarely get criticized and you rarely even get noticed; you please the resistance.  What is difficult to do is to be the one to change the system – to challenge the current norms and to be what Seth Godin calls a “Linchpin”.  A linchpin is someone who is indispensable; someone who fights the resistance and uses their creativity to live on the edge of the box.  “The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds.”

We need to be teaching students to not just “do school” but to take risks, try new initiatives and become indispensable.  What better way to teach students this than to model this as educators?  Now I realize that we have laws that govern education but as leaders and teachers, how can we work WITH our passionate staff and students who are taking risks, challenging the ‘truths’ and norms, and changing the education system?

Godin asks the question: “Would your organization be more successful if your employees were more obedient?  Or, consider for a second: would you be more successful if your employees were more artistic, motivated, connected, aware, passionate, and genuine?”.

What kind of school culture do you want?  How are you providing your staff with the autonomy to fight their lizard brain and challenge the status quo?  Do you silence or encourage the voices of change?

Who are your Linchpins? How do you lead with your Linchpins?

Originally posted as a guest post on Joe Bower‘s blog, “For the Love of Learning”.  Joe is a true linchpin who inspires me as an educator.

For more conversations around education, please connect with me on Twitter or check out the Wejr Board blog.


  1. Great post, Chris. Very thought provoking. However, I would argue against the idea of any leader striving to be indispensable. Being indispensable implies that others are implicitly dependent on that person for their innovation and support. Leaders (whether administrators or teachers) should be striving to promote and support others in their own journey as educators and leaders, while challenging established norms and promoting growth for students. The ultimate goal of any leader should be to leave a school (or district) knowing that improvement and change will go on without them because of the capacity they’ve helped increase in their educators. When linchpins leave, the wheels fall off.

    March 31, 2011
  2. Connie said:

    Educators should challenge themselves by going ahead and challenging the norm of education. Change can be good with that being new ways to teach the students besides traditional lectures or just simply pen and paper. Following the guidelines is one thing, but having a teacher that can show students a new way of learning without it being so typical or boring can make education fun. As a student assistant for DML Central, I’ve learned a lot about how teachers, schools, and such are introducing innovative methods to learning that successfully teach the students educational and life values.

    April 1, 2011
  3. Carlos Gomez said:

    I totally felt identified! Where I come from, teaching is normally seen as providing or lecturing rather than letting students interact and create. People fear technology and it has been very difficult for me to aoid criticism. I started using an ipad and a projector along with tons of apps and lessons that benefit from the internet and the ipad, and it has been quite difficult. Other teachers complain about the principal’s “preference” towards me, as well as the principles behind my teaching. They complain parents now demand more from them and compare them to me.

    It’s actually getting kind of hard to deal with wave after wave of confrontation and gossip. I’m getting a bit frustrated. I want to know what other fellow teachers would do in this situation. I feel I cannot go against the flow, I don’t want to give up, but the enviroment here is very, very tense. What sholud I do?

    June 3, 2011
  4. […] wrote how we need to support those that are trying new things and new methods in education (see: Leading With Our Linchpins). As educational leaders, how do we support those teachers/support staff that are different and/or […]

    June 3, 2011
  5. […] Someone new to a subject needs a guide, a visionary. Someone to part the clouds for them–and teachers do that. They take students on a journey every semester, period, and quarter. And they do it with such insight, engagement, and intrigue that students can be turned on to certain subjects for the rest of their lives. Think about reading–it can be pretty boring to a students. But a teacher that shows how reading comes alive is a linchpin. […]

    September 8, 2012

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