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Scott Taylor

Superintendent , Kenilworth Public School District

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Educational leadership

The Battle of Shiloh is considered by American historians as one of the bloodiest wartime fights of the modern era. General Ulysses S. Grant led his troops to Union victory and, as biographer Jean Edward Smith accounts in his highly respected, well researched 2001 book titled "Grant," showed a leadership trait that should be emulated by anyone who strives to win a "battle."

"A general imparts attitude to an army. It is not simply a matter of issuing orders, but infusing spirit and initiative. An inchoate bond develops between a successful commander and the army. His will becomes theirs...The men fought because they knew that Grant expected them to, and they trusted his judgment that they could do so."

The key to the relationship Grant forged with his troops was the success he showed in battle. The general is known to have lost as many battles as he won, but the "wins" he scored in the fighting were significant and game-changing.

Grant's soldiers followed him through thick and thin. I recognize, as an educational leader, that I will have to show successes before I can expect my "troops" to follow my vision. I realize the leaders, teachers, and parents in my schools will not support my work whole-heartedly unless I can prove that their adherence to my plans for student achievement will pay off in the end.

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  • Jun 18 2013: Scott,

    I would recommend you take the time to read the short (320 pages) but apt book by Chip and Dan Heath entitled Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I do not want to ruin the book for you, but to give you a short preview of the theory it contains. It suggests there are three aspects of change management leaders need to consider while trying to create change against all odds:

    - Get buy in at the emotional level

    - Once emotional buy-in exists, back it up with rational thought and by focusing on the bright spots within your organization by pointing to the destination and scripting the critical moves you need to get through to get to your destination

    - Shape the path / culture: Build habits that support your change and rally, in your case, your teachers.

    The book goes much more in-depth with some specifics and examples. These examples, generally speaking, are instances where individuals have no organizational power behind them to help push the change. These include amazing systematic changes such as saving endangered animals while working against the home country's dominate culture. This reminds me, in a very real way, of the kind of change that needs to occur in our school districts - often times against the prevailing culture to ensure real progress towards educational objectives. I also suspect that you are the type of leader that does not want to ineffectively strong-arm change. This book may give you at least some insight on how you might go about this. Scott, I would love to hear how you choose to tackle this very relatable problem and the resulting change in your schools. I am interested in a position in educational leadership myself (mostly on the finance side – I am an accounting and Computer Information Systems major at university hoping to find my way into school finance) and suspect I will find myself in a similar position in the future.

    Best of luck,

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