Are You An Innovative Leader?

Innovate.  Innovation.  Innovative.

Schools and school systems everywhere include those words in their mission and vision work.  When interviewing for an assistant principal or principal position, you can most likely expect to be asked about your ability to innovate.  Evidence that you’re innovative.

Innovation is an important part of any organization’s success.  Like many concepts, it’s possible that we’ve used (and misused) it to such a degree that its meaning has been blurred.

As defined, innovation is “a new idea, device or method.”  It’s also considered to be the act or process of introducing those new ideas, devices, or methods.

Teachers, assistant principals, and principals are innovators for, if no other purpose, reasons of survival!  To teach students on 180 different days, you’d best be developing some new ideas and methods.  If you’re a principal or assistant principal, you are regularly introducing new ideas to your faculty.  In its purest sense, innovation is a great descriptor for school people.

That said, there is some discrepancy about what we mean we talk about innovation in education.  To prove it, let’s play a little bit of word association.  What’s the first thing that pops in your mind when, as a teacher and in a school context, you hear innovative?

What did you see? Maybe technology?  We often think of those two together.  Technology is an amazing tool for instruction and for instructors.  It can be a difference-maker when used to its potential.

All technology is not, however, innovative.  And, all innovations are not technology.

Don’t let me lead you in the wrong direction; if you aren’t using technology as a part of your instruction, you’re missing a great resource.  It’s just this:  merely using technology doesn’t make you an innovator.  It’s really about the manner you use it and the reason you use it.  The how and the why.

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Being an innovative leader may include your leadership in using and encouraging the use of technology, but that’s only a part of what it means to be an innovative school leader.  What does it take to be an innovative principal?  Here’s a list of some of the characteristics:

  • The innovative administrator sees possibilities where others see problems;
  • The innovative administrator gives others the resources they need to innovate;
  • The innovative administrator lives in a non-binary world; there is always another way!;
  • The innovative administrator works harder to get to ‘yes’ than to get to ‘no.’
  • The innovative administrator starts with questions, not with answers;
  • Innovative administrators challenge the people around them to dream, create, explore, and innovate;
  • Innovative administrators operate out of hope, not fear.

As a school administrator, you have the responsibility of leading your faculty and staff, and one of your greatest ways to do so is by setting the pace and driving the climate of your school.  If you aren’t leading a school with an innovative mindsetquite frankly, it doesn’t matter HOW MANY computers or devices you have.  If you don’t think in an innovative fashion, those computers won’t really change things much.

That’s a part of your role as a school leader.  You aren’t going to have innovative teachers by purchasing them or their students devices; it requires an mindset for innovation.  This can be led by you, the person who establishes the way that your school approaches things.

Technology can be very good, but it’s not a magic bean.  The magic has always been and will always be the teacher, and the teacher is led by the school leader.  Teach them to be innovative by showing them how, telling them how, and helping them as they try.

More on innovation over the next few days!









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