Today was a good day (considering it was snowing) to crack the spine on a new leadership book, as I look towards the coming weeks and how best to support our staff during these unprecedented times.   When a few colleagues shared that the mentor text for their PQP course was Fullan’s, “Nuance ~ Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail”, I decided to order a copy so that if perchance they were interested, we could engage in a conversation or two.

I’ve always enjoyed and connected with Fullan’s vision of how leaders can continue to reflect upon their practice in an effort to move the learning agenda forward and this latest book did not disappoint.  The case studies woven into each chapter provide a context that allows the reader to explore the concepts of the JAC model and find nuggets that relate to their own set of circumstances.  Fullan has always pushed the thinking of the reader, to move beyond their comfort zone in order to create a school system that is better than our current one.  What I found different about this book was his focus on going deeper than the surface when making decisions and the humanity element, which may not have always been as prevalent in some of his other books.

According to Fullan, “Nuance leaders have a curiosity about what is possible, openness to other people, sensitivity to context, and a loyalty to a better future. They see below the surface, enabling them to detect patterns and their consequences for the system. They connect people to their own and each other’s humanity. They don’t lead; they teach. They change people’s emotions, not just their minds. They have an instinct for orchestration.”

I love that term orchestration. An orchestra has the ability to emotionally move an audience when and only when each player impeccably knows their instrument and how to make magic with that instrument. They know when to crescendo and when to decrescendo. They are the masters of that sound. They rely on the conductor to guide them. But the conductor needs to be emotionally connected to the audience in order to know the perfect moment to cue that crescendo. Without that connection to the audience, it simply becomes notes on a page, played with precision, but not played with passion.  The audience may be entertained, but not inspired.

If our role as a school/system leader is to simply move the learning agenda forward then there are many books written on how to “play those notes” and many of them will also share when to crescendo and when to decrescendo.  But if we truly want to have an impact, to create a generation of students who will make a difference, to inspire change agents, to make our world a better place, then as leaders we need to connect emotionally with our staff, with our communities and not just cognitively go through the motions and read the script like notes on sheet music.

Now, more than ever, with the Pandemic Playbook being written and rewritten, is the time for Nuanced Leaders.  We need leaders who are sensitive to the day to day challenges that all educators are facing and who are willing to connect with their teams emotionally in order to listen and learn about the possibilities and how best to move forward.  Now more than ever, when our physical connection is compromised, we need leaders who will embrace the notion that connection to each other’s humanity needs to be the opening number.

Pass the baton to the Nuanced Leaders.

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