Unleashing Student Potential by Multiplying School Leaders
Education leaders from the Los Altos and Menlo Park school districts met with authors Liz Wiseman, Lois Allen, and Elise Foster on May 16th to explore a new model of leadership based on their recently-released book, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. The authors and participants engaged in a lively discussion about the impact that a “genius-maker” vs. “genius-at-the-top” style of leadership can have on teachers, students and the community. With a panel of school administrators and teachers, they explored practical ways that school leaders can incorporate Multiplier thinking and actions into their daily activities.
As the panel discussed their experience working with both Multipliers and Diminishers, it became clear that Multipliers create an environment of excitement, vitality and a pull to do great things. “Our principal at Hillview is truly getting twice our brain power,” said Michael Kaelin, a 7th grade teacher at Hillview Middle School. “He’s tapped into the dynamism and energy of our teachers. We wanted our school to be amazing, and now we have that chance every day.”
In contrast, Diminisher leaders cause people to “duck and cover” and create an environment of fear. “There is a tendency to only focus on things you have control over. You lose sight of the big picture,” said Erin Green, principal at Covington Elementary School. Patrick Kelly, an 8th grade teacher at La Entrada Middle School, added, “There is still some fear when working for a Multiplier, but it’s the fear of missing an opportunity to accomplish something.”
The panel went on to discuss steps that school leaders at every level can take to begin leading like Multipliers. They placed importance on an attitude of humility and being continually open to feedback, as well as that familiar advice we got from our parents: talk less, listen more. “The power of being a leader is in the questions you ask,” said Erik Burmeister, principal at Hillview Middle School. “I want to get good at asking the questions.”
How can leading like a Multiplier help educators solve the most critical challenges of the 21st century? “Multiplier leadership is a mindset that helps us get outside of our own heads and inside the heads of others. When we free ourselves of the burden of having the answer and invite others to tackle the problem with us, the possibilities are endless,” says Elise Foster, co-author of The Multiplier Effect and Education Practice Lead for the Wiseman Group.
When the innate genius of teachers is encouraged and tapped, educators are free to offer the same for their students. Teacher Michael Kaelin adds, “The best part is that when we’re amazing, our kids are, too.”