Strong leadership means having the ability to define a vision and motivate others to embrace it. However, there are times when your peers do not share your vision and in fact, may have completely different perspectives. Mike McGalliard, founding executive director of Imagination Foundation, shares lessons learned about working with difficult people from his own personal leadership journey.
How do you know when it’s time to revise your vision in order to collaborate with others? How do you adopt new strategies without losing sight of your goals? Share your experiences in this in the comments below!
McGalliard notes that there’s really no task more important, and probably no task more difficult, than turning around schools. It’s political work too because a lot of stakeholders are involved in school reform.
“One my strengths as a leader is that I’m pretty visionary. If there’s an idea I think is important, I don’t stop chasing it. But there’s a problem there too. You may really love your vision and think it’s really valuable, and you may be right that it is, but a lot of the people involved here all have their own angle. You can’t assume everyone is on board or should be on board with your vision.”
An effective leader shouldn’t take on too many things at once. Change is really hard for people, even if it’s necessary. So look at the long game and just change a little bit along the way. Don’t lose sight of your goal. It’s not like letting go of your vision; it’s creative goal-setting, and realizing that the path to get there might be a little bit different than you wanted it to be.
“If I could counsel myself earlier in my career, I would probably say, “Yes, your vision is a good one. It’s probably the right one. What you want for kids is the right thing. But if you tackle it the way you’re tackling it, then you’re not going to get there.” So, I dialed it back a bit, but didn’t lose sight. That’s hard to do. Don’t compromise, but just realize that getting to that vision is going to take some time and care.”
For quite a few years in my life, I was involved in helping turn around schools. It's a really difficult task. You're taking, in some cases, really large schools, 4,000-seat high schools, and trying to re-engineer them so that they're effective. There's really no task more important, and probably no task more difficult. It's political work too because a lot of stakeholders are involved in school reform, I mean, a lot of different interests. I think one of the strengths that I've had as a leader, something that I've proud of, is that I'm pretty visionary. If there's an idea that I think is important, I don't stop chasing it. I don't stop, but there's a problem there too, and I learned it while I was working to help reform schools, is that you may really love your vision and think it's really valuable, and you may be right that it is, but there's a lot of the people involved here too, and they all have their own angle, their own perspective, and I assume that everyone was on board or should be on board with the vision that I had. And so, I got all the criticism for it, a lot of it's public. Google my name and see it. So from that situation, I learned that maybe don't take on too many things at once. Change is really hard for people, even if it's necessary. So, look at the long game and just change a little bit along the way. Don't lose sight of your goal. It's not like letting go of your vision; it's just realizing that the path to get there might be a little bit different than you wanted it to be. Your timeline might be a little bit different, and just realize a person's capacity for change isn't limitless. It's pretty tough, and I was trying to change too many things at one time. I guess I felt this burden of time like kids are missing out on a good education. They need it now. And we're fooling around with adult issues. "Let's knock it off." It was kind of my tone, and it's refreshing in some ways because a lot of America was feeling the same way, like, "Knock it off. Enough with the adult issues. This is school, it's supposed to serve the kids' interests, and we're making this about our jobs as adults." But you step back a little bit and realize, "Well, it is about the jobs of some adults, too." So let's not lose sight of children. That's exactly what we all stand for, but just change a little bit slower, and maybe not change everything at the same time. If I could counsel myself back then, and really, it wasn't that long ago, but I learned a lot in a very short period of time, if I could counsel myself back then, I would probably say, "Yes, your vision is a good one. It's probably the right one. What you want for kids is the right thing. But if you tackle it the way you're tackling it, then you're not going to get there." So, dial it back a bit, but don't lose sight. That's hard to do. It is hard to dial things back, and then not lose sight. We see it a lot, and we get frustrated when folks compromise, but that's not what I would advise myself to do. Don't compromise, but just realize that getting to that vision is going to take some time and care, I guess. It will take time and care to get there.