“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Abraham Lincoln

Normally, I don’t lead with a quotation, choosing instead to share those pithy quotes at the end that capture the essence of my blogs. The one above, however, is the perfect introduction to my blog about leading change and how best to anticipate and prepare for a new reality.  I believe each of us has the choice—the potential—to improve our chances to go beyond what we are currently doing, especially when we proactively approach our “tasks” with the intent to serve, deliver, and thrive. I would rather define my own success benchmarks before someone imposes their standards on me!

We are told that “change is the constant” and that our complex and interconnected world will require all of us to think/rethink and act/react at a very fast pace.  The sense of constant loss (of people, places, and things no longer with us) and continuous angst about the looming unknown must be balanced with the excitement of amazing possibilities and the anticipation of something new being more rewarding than we originally imagined. Our challenge is to “disturb” the status quo in constructive ways and empower people to reach beyond themselves so as to positively influence the future.

Last week during collaboration time with the teachers, the group engaged in an exercise that had them “creating our future today.” Part of their task was to project themselves into the future and begin shaping this new reality by describing how it looks and feels; explaining the way people in this imagined future behave, interact, and connect; and finally, illustrating how we will work, teach, and learn together as a community once we’re there.  The teachers were then asked to look at where we are today and to design a road map that identified those actions that would help us create the conditions of “acting and doing” that would get us where we want to be.  The challenge for the staff was how to remain present and yet figure out how to put into play those actions that would immerse the next Head of School in this new way of being—hence, modelling the way.

It was exciting to see how engaged the teachers were as they “shared what matters most;” specifically how much they value collaboration, collegiality, and a sense of collective responsibility for creating a place that is forward-thinking and continues to serve our community of learners—now and in the future.

I have always believed that I would rather lead change than try to manage it—particularly given that there are many things not within any leader’s control!  Part of the change process requires us to identify those values, traditions, and practices that need to be preserved while also establishing our key priorities. Once we collaboratively develop an action plan, we can put into practice what we want our world, or learning community, to look like. This cooperative effort requires us to question what we currently know and do, all the while working to inspire those around us to move into the discomfort and “messiness” of doing things differently. The motivation to sustain such efforts comes from encouraging and validating each other, bracing ourselves for any unforeseen consequences, and exploring multiple new pathways for success.  All of this requires courage, perseverance, and trust—in the process, in each other, and in the vision.

“If you are entrusted with bringing about change, you likely possess the knowledge needed to advance the organization, and you might have a plan—but knowledge is not enough. You have to bring yourself to each interaction in a deeply authentic way. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Doug Conant.