Do mistakes make us human or foolish? Do they make us learners, or simply wrong? I was recently discussing this with a colleague reflecting on the importance of “getting things right”. Of course, as school administrators there is a logistical “getting it right” that is important, and my colleague was speaking of this. That is, the organizational aspects, such as implementing the events of school startup, timetable scheduling or report card distribution, for example, should be carried out with care, precision and attention to detail so that teachers and students can focus on the learning experience. These events should be ‘gotten right’.
But in a leadership position, while I believe that a leader must carry the vision that the community grows toward, that vision must include adults as learners too. In an undertaking as large, complex and varied as the leadership of a school community, no one can know everything about everything. The leaders of the community must take responsibility for learning as a members of that community. If I am totally focused just on “getting it right”, I will not be able to open up to learning from others. I must be willing to bring problems of significance to the community and get the perspective and wisdom of the teachers, support workers, students and parents who experience that same challenging reality so that it can be solved together.
In my view, a leader who learns as a member of their school community, who has the strength of character to pursue better learning with its inherent risk of making a mistake, and is willing to share what they find in the process, is walking the path to a more connected community, one that deeply and visibly values learning.