November 27, 2006


Technically Focussed Leadership Practice

All too often the leader, or driver of change, is locked into a singular vision of what it is they want to create. They turn their vision into something concrete by describing what it is they/we will have achieved by the end of the change process. A key part of their strategy is to share that vision with those with whom they work and over whom they have responsibility.

Some leaders attempt to promote 'shared ownership' of that vision by engaging in consultation and partnership with stakeholders and employees. Nevertheless, once that consultation process has been completed the vision is "set".

Having taken great care to describe the vision in great detail they create expectations in people's minds, and in their own, about the future. The problem comes when - as it inevitably will - when external circumstances start to mean that the detail of what it is they were starting to create is not going to be fulfilled. Technically focussed leaders will often be reluctant to shift from the original vision even if the change would be of benefit to everyone involved.


Pic308_2The alternative to the technically focused leader's vision is to see vision as an outcome which is not 'set' from the beginning. Instead the sculptor has an idea; a notion; a picture in mind - e.g. to create a sculpture of a human form - but as the sculptor commences work the final outcome may be very different from what they had in mind at the beginning but is all the more successful for that variation.

What the sculptor is doing is to constantly check on the quality of the developing work. By checking it against a desire to produce the "best" work possible the sculptor shifts the vision rather than carrying on working towards something that will not be as high a quality as what will be created through a more flexible approach towards the final outcome.

Here is an example of how thisa metaphor might be interpreted in an educational context:

There are five parts to the sculpting metaphor: vision; medium; tools; changing plans; quality of outcome

Vision: Our vision - at its highest level - it to transform children's life chances; promote exceptionally high levels of job satisfaction; and create a community of learners who work together to fulfil the previous two aims.

Medium: Our medium is people. We need to understand that everything we do is dependent upon our people and that nothing must undermine that fundamental principle.

Tools: Put simply our tools are our capacity to involve, engage and support people to enable them to shape, understand and fulfil our vision. We need to explore as many ways as possible to develop that capacity.

Changing Plans: We recognise that the details of our change strategy may need to change significantly in response to the context within which we operate. Such changes should not be seen as failure but as a natural part of a change process.

Quality of Outcome: We must constantly reflect on the quality of our product. We need to use as many ways as possible to judge whether or not what we are doing matches up with our vision.