If Blockbuster was still around today, and you had to take out your life savings and invest in that company or Netflix, which one would you choose?
The answer is obvious.
But what about five years ago? Ten years ago?
Now it would be easy to say that Netflix would be the obvious choice, which would mean you are smarter than the leadership of Blockbuster at the time who turned down an offer to acquire Netflix.
The trick with leadership is to understand not only where they are, but the world around them, and what that means for where they have to go.
Still, many leaders go into organizations and focus less on leading, and more on maintaining. People often refer to this style of leadership as “managing,” but great leaders know they have to manage things, and lead people. “Maintainer” would be the more accurate description.
Unfortunately, if you act as a “maintainer” and focus on standing still in a world that continuously moves forward, you will fall behind.
Many educators hide their fear of future by saying everything has to be focused on the research of past practices. Research is crucial and should not be ignored, but many organizations have used evidence of success in the past to justify future direction, only to fail. Ask Blockbuster, Kodak, multiple music distribution companies, just for starters. Past success does not ensure future growth.
In education, if you want to understand where learning can go, immerse yourself in the opportunities that your students have currently. I am not talking about throwing yourself in front of a computer and having a “choose your own adventure” type of learning experience that many schools now call “personalization,” but why not focus on what you can create because of what you consume? There is a difference between an opinion and an informed opinion, and while we encourage staff to take risks in their classrooms, leaders must model risks in their learning.
Leaders go first, and if they don’t, they are not leading. The best way to know what the world will need from our students is to immerse yourself in the opportunities the world provides and understand what you can do now and in the future.
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