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Do you lead with your heart or your head?

Edmund Burke once wrote, “The true lawgiver ought to have a heart full of sensibility. He ought to love and respect his kind, and to fear himself.” Burke was emphasizing that leadership is a passionate activity. It begins with a warm gratitude toward that which you have inherited and a fervent wish to steward it well. It is propelled by an ardent moral imagination, a vision of a good society that can’t be realized in one lifetime. It is informed by seasoned affections, a love of the way certain people concretely are and a desire to give all a chance to live at their highest level.

This kind of leader is warm-blooded and leads with full humanity. In every White House, and in many private offices, there seems to be a tug of war between those who want to express this messy amateur humanism and those calculators who emphasize message discipline, preventing leaks and maximum control. In most of the offices, there’s a fear of natural messiness, a fear of uncertainty, a distrust of that which is not scientific. The calculators are given too much control.

The leadership emotions, which should propel things, get amputated. The shrewd tacticians end up timidly and defensively running the expedition. David Brooks "The Leadership Emotions," NYT, April 21, 2014

It's rare in day-to-day school operations when you see an adult speak with passion about a deeply-held belief.

Yes, emotions are often seen in schools - but too often they are fear, sadness, or anger. And we certainly discourage kids expressing these emotions and behave as good little robots whenever possible. Teachers are expected to model this. Acting from the heart gets a bad rap.

And I would say that the higher up the leadership level in a school, the less likely leadership from the heart occurs - at least visibly.  I often come away from meetings feeling somewhat embarrassed because I get passionate about ideas and philosophies and policies - either yea or nay - and showed this through public comment. With most of the administration in the district being more my children's age than my own, I'm quite sure I'm written off a senile crank. And I recognize that being eligible for retirement without enormous personal financial risk and not having to worry anymore about climbing any professional ladders allows me to be brave. 

Dispassionate decision-making is a dangerous virtue, as Brooks suggests. Especially so in education. 

At your next meeting speak out, just once, from the heart. The feeling embarrassment passes.



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Reader Comments (1)

This is great post. Thank you for taking the time to write such informative and inspirational article.
Keep up sharing, it helps.

Best wishes

April 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Stone

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