Transforming Education—January 2017

“Leadership is not about being in charge.
Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”

—Simon Sinek

A copy of Sinek’s quote regarding leadership appeared taped to my office door one morning and it was simply signed, “Thanks!” It was such a lovely surprise and prompted me to examine what I believe about my role in the College of Education. I believe that I have the best job in the world. Colleagues who are unbelievably talented and dedicated surround me—hence I have named them “The Dream Team.” They challenge the status quo, dare to dream big, and then take action to turn their dreams into reality. They do not speak of fear but rather of hope and possibilities. They speak more often with questions than with directives. And most importantly, they engage in deep collaborations within the college and University, our school-based and community partners, education and social agencies, and state and national policymakers.

I believe Simon Sinek is right—my role is not to be in charge but to nurture, support, guide, listen to, and believe in those in my charge. I frequently remind my “Dream Team” that part of my role is to offer them Gatorade as they run past me with their ideas and brilliance. I am the orchestra director of an amazing symphony!

Does Simon Sinek’s quote speak to you? In his wonderful book, Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, Sinek wrote, “Leadership is not a rank or position to be attained. Leadership is a service to be given…Leadership is an education. And the best leaders think of themselves as the students not the teachers.” What if we considered the role of every individual in a school or organization as a leader? For example, I think about a member of the custodial staff at the IPS/Butler Lab School who is a leader. She models kindness and respect for the children and when the children created their own board game she was the first person they invited to play. She takes “care of those in her charge” and is a valuable member of the school symphony. Who do you work with who may not have an official leadership title but is a true leader? Have you considered that YOU are a leader too?

An example of leadership from the College of Education “Dream Team” is EPIC: Educators Preparing Inspired Change which is an academy for superintendents created by Associate Dean Deb Lecklider; Cindy Smith, COE Administrative Assistant; J.T. Coopman, Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS); and William Gulley, Executive Director of the Butler University Lacy School of Business Executive Education program. The academy officially launched on January 12 and is an example of Sinek’s belief that leaders see themselves as students—we are never done learning!

Another example of leadership is a video created by Dr. Kelli Esteves, Associate Professor in the COE and the recipient of the Richard W. Guyer Chair in Education. Dr. Esteves is the co-author of RTI in Middle School Classrooms: Proven Tools and Strategies and RTI Proven Tools and Strategies for Schools and Classrooms. I encourage you to listen to her message, as you will hear important leadership principles embedded in her words of wisdom regarding RTI.

I invite you to share your stories of leadership with us on Twitter and Facebook. I wish each of you a Happy New Year in 2017 as we travel the road of learning and leading together!

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education