Wanted: Disruptive Leadership Advice

by Jean Tower

It has been a week since NECC finished and I have been reflecting on whether the conference met my expectations and on what I found to be most valuable.

In some ways NECC met my expectations, while in other ways it did not.

The most important part of the conference to me was the people, the conversations, the personal contacts, and the connections. We hear often that teaching is an isolating profession. I agree, but in fact, there are hundreds of teachers in my school district and they have each other. They may choose to stay isolated but can also decide to support each other, collaborate, commiserate, and share the bond born of a common profession, working for the same employer. I, however, am the only Technology Director in my district. While I enjoy the company (and insights and collegiality) of the teachers and administrators with whom I work, I also really appreciate my local job-alike meetings and collaborating with those peers and serving on committees and boards. Not only do I find it personally rewarding and professionally invigorating, but I also place a high value on the relationships that are built around these activities and commitments.

NECC provides an even bigger forum for those connections. I met people whose work I have read and followed for quite a while and bloggers whose writing fills my google reader pages on a regular basis. I renewed acquaintances I made at previous conferences and I touched base with many other ISTE affiliate leaders. There were many exhibitors I needed to talk to, and I managed to get to them all (in one big room!) and I also got to enjoy some social time with several of the corporate attendees. I took advantage of opportunities to get to know new friends (from as far away as Australia) and to share ideas with educators from all over the states. Ironically enough, some of the best conversations were with folks from my own state and from around New England – people who I get to see fairly often, but usually within a tight timeframe with a packed agenda. Tending to this network of colleagues is like taking care of the garden – the rewards are reaped far into the future, as these connections form my personal learning network.

One way that NECC09 did not quite meet my expectations is that I was hoping to gather ideas to help me be a more disruptive educational leader in my district. I am still trying to develop ways to challenge the status quo more directly, with minimum tears and as gently as I can. I think it is a fine line I have to walk as a member of the administration who harbors, in my darkest recesses, the heart of a renegade, a rabble-rouser. If I am actively involved in driving technology use, then I am a change agent (like so many of you) and this may be more than a little scary to many people.

I attended two sessions that I had hoped would inspire me with ideas to support this goal. They were:
How 2 B a Disruptive Technology Leader!
Effective Leadership in an Era of Disruptive Innovation

Both sessions were good, but not on target for what I was looking for. I think that I must have read more into the titles and descriptions than what was there, only because of my existing agenda. Anyway, my goal for the next school year is to take on the challenge of being disruptive in a constructive and positive way. If any of you have suggestions of blogs or books I should read, classes I should take, or armor I should purchase, please let me know. I can use some help and would love to have company on this mission – if you are planning something similar, maybe you could share your own posts on the topic.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Beckford July 18, 2009 at 12:26 am

Jean, I read your post with interest. I was turned on to it by my google alert on Disruptive Leadership which is the title of my blog. My passion is constructive disruptions, specifically with technology and its impact in social development, with a heavy focus on its impact on education. I just recently had a debate with Walter Bender, CEO of Sugar Labs, the software that is used on Nicholas Negroponte and his OLPC’s XO laptop that you may find interesting: 1:1 Saturations and Computer Labs: Can Their Benefits Bring a New Model?

Jean Tower July 20, 2009 at 8:49 am

Mark – Thanks for the link to your blog. I took some time to read several posts and will keep reading.

Ted Santos August 19, 2009 at 6:11 am

Dear Jean,

You have embarked upon a path that most spend their entire lives avoiding. Congratulations to you!

However, without people like you, there is only incremental progress in society. So I invented the term disruptive leadership for people who wanted to intentionally drive an innovative process, even though they would be creating a disruption/problem/breakdown for most.

The Disruptive Leadership Model is a tool. It has 2 components. The first is designed to intentionally create a quantum leap in one’s area of expertise. The second is a set of tools that support people from being derail. Everyone has the ability to create breakthroughs, except, preexisting mental models often derail the process.

With that said, developing mastery with the Disruptive Leadership Model is not something that happens by reading great books. It is experiential. It takes practice.

There are 2 ways to learn more about the Disruptive Leadership Model. My website is http://www.turnaroundip.com. There are a number of articles as well as radio and web cast interviews. There is also a section under CEO Development that outlines the entire model. The other would be through a phone call. The number is on the site.

Good luck.

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