The Leader Games

ds/2012/10/Crossword-Leadership-1093561-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />I am currently participating in a series created by George Couros called “Leadership 2.0” . The series is focusing on what school leadership looks like in the context of today’s world and how innovative leaders are pushing their schools and organizations forward. Fascinating, right?

As I listened to Chris Smeaton, a superintendent from up north, speak last week on visionary leadership, it was impossible to keep up with the stream of his gems of greatness. I wanted to tweet almost every statement as a “what I should be doing” kinda note taking tweet.

A couple that stood out…

Having a clear vision is going to be what sets you apart as a leader. If you are content with the status quo and are content with just going through the day to day mechanics of a campus, you’re a manager, not a leader. There’s a difference. Why is it so important to have a vision?

The director of the Hunger Games, Gary Ross,  said that one of the most important things he does as a director is to sit alone, at his desk, for hours, before he begins and writes out everysinglething he can about the movie. From staging to angles to directions…he writes it all out the way he wants to see it happen. This is his vision. Everything that happens from this point on goes BACK to that vision. He talks about how on the set in the heat of the moment questions are asked that you may be tempted to answer based on practicality.

All decisions have to flow out of a single vision that you had alone, calm, without the questions, doubts or negativity that can surround you. Inevitability, those answers that should be based on logistics default to what’s practical.

A leader wants answers to questions that reference back to the clarity of their vision. The costume designer said that when she has a question, she thinks back to what Gary Ross’s vision is, not what she interpreted from her reading of the books/script. It’s HIS vision, not hers, and she makes decisions based on THAT. These are Academy Award winners here…grown, capable, creative minds. It’s not as if they couldn’t answer but they see the importance of the unified vision of their director, their leader.


Is your vision as an administrator so clear to your staff that they are able to conduct their classrooms in a manner that embodies that vision? I say staff because top to bottom, that’s how visible and impacting your vision should be. From the cafeteria workers to the janitor to the office staff to the students and teachers…everyone should know and be able to base their actions on your vision. A vision is more than just success on standardized tests. A vision defines how you feel about discipline, attitude, homework, community involvement. It transcends the mechanics of your job and instead becomes a campus mindset.


As I continue to learn and grow, I see even more how I (someday) want my campus to be a product of my preparation instead of the preparation being a product of the campus. I don’t want to adapt and adjust to the tone, but instead be the one who shapes and defines it. Vision is one those hot button words that comes up when one discusses leadership, but this week really defined it as one of the most important things a leader needs to do.


May the odds ever be in your favor,



  1. Chris Wejr said:

    Hey Amber – I am really enjoying the sessions as well. The thoughts o all those involved have given me plenty of things to reflect upon. I am wondering, too, how we create “our” vision that includes both the vision of the administrator as well as those formal and informal lleaders in he building. Ultimately, people respond when they feel part of the purpose. How do we ensure that staff get ownership of the vision?


    October 23, 2012
    • Hi Chris! Thanks for reading. I took a few days to think about your question. I do think that people are more on board when they feel a part of the purpose, but I also think it’s important for the leader to set the vision. While students may feel feel ownership when helping create a set of class rules, a teacher would still guide them to what they had in mind.
      I think if the principal, superintendent, whoever…develops a vision…successfully communicates that vision, continually references, refers back, guides to that vision…you can get the majority of people on board. Ownership can come in the day to day decisions…but maybe not the overall idea. Does that make sense?
      There’s always going to be people who don’t share the same philosophy as you. I know on our campus we have teachers who strongly believe in large amounts of daily homework. However, we as administrators don’t. Our compromise is no more than 15 minutes, and there can’t be anything done punitively if it isn’t completed.
      The “big” picture there is that we don’t believe there is a correlation between homework and concept mastery.

      October 26, 2012
  2. THANK YOU for this article.
    I appreciate your sharing about the director of the Hunger Games and how it comes back to HIS vision instead of the other staff’s decision. The importance of strong leadership who KNOW where they are going is so important to a campus…..
    I believe that MANY teachers lately have stopped talking to admin and making little islands in their classroom where wonderful things are happening….but once the students leave their island — all things suddenly stop.
    And I believe many admin are letting that happen — because they are unwilling to chat with their teachers. (not talk at — but chat with)
    I hope many people read this blog post — and then go back and chat with either their staff (or admin) so that our campuses can unite with a common goal and purpose — instead of everyone doing their own thing.
    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts.

    October 24, 2012
    • Amber Clayton said:

      I wondered about something similar–how does this vision connect with a vision of shared governance? A director can create a unified vision…but part of my own vision is transparency with all partners–teachers, staff, parents, and students, collaborating to form a united and committed vision. Too much vision work is done in silos away from constituents who have a true stake in outcomes. The article and response left me lots to ruminate on…

      October 24, 2012
      • Transparency is a tricky word. You can be transparent but the level of transparency is still your decision. We’re transparent with our budget but we don’t email every time we have to make a purchase. If a “vision” sets a defined enough purpose, most decisions can made with that in mind. I used the homework example above. Another example from our campus is that my principal does not believe in students missing recess as a punishment. It is a non-negotiable that no matter what the situation is, they know that isn’t an option because he believes kids should have time to be kids throughout the day. They’ve had to get creative in their consequences but they know what our philosophy is….

        Thanks for thinking and ruminating, Amber!

        October 26, 2012
  3. Hi Amber,

    Fantastic thoughts. The part that really resonated with me was “Is your vision as an administrator so clear to your staff that they are able to conduct their classrooms in a manner that embodies that vision? I say staff because top to bottom, that’s how visible and impacting your vision should be.” It’s that push/pull of encouraging and pushing, towards that one singular vision….that needs to be articulated, less you fall into the trap of being a building manager. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    – Steve @sguditus

    October 30, 2012
  4. Bromeo said:

    Hi mr sanders

    February 11, 2016

Comments are closed.