Answering the Question: Why the Ed.L.D.?By Lory Hough
What are the most important skills that the Ed.L.D. students will need to be successful education leaders?
One thing that I have thought about is how much the skills to lead have, in some ways, remained the same over time and how they cut across different sectors. Regardless of where students end up in the field of education, leaders need to be able to understand people and how to get others to focus on a mission. They need to be able to communicate those things so that others understand the larger vision and the mission in relationship to particular aspects of the work. Those things are constant across many different areas of leadership.
Of course, with changes in the field — the opening up of education to other sectors, for example — some of the skills are beginning to change. There is increasingly a need for education leaders to be ahead, to serve almost in a kind of “scanning” capacity in order to be able to anticipate and move people to where they need to be. Leaders also need to be aware of how political the work becomes the higher you move in an organization. What was political at a micro-political level when I was a classroom teacher or a person working in a central office expanded tremendously when I became chief of staff in New York and then deputy chancellor. This really prepared me for what it meant to be a superintendent in Baltimore. The scale of the work, the intensity of the gaze, the scrutiny, the need to constantly serve and respond, and to think through how things connect — it magnified enormously when I became a district superintendent. My sense is there’s an enormous need to prepare people for what that means once you’re in the arena.
Of course, underlying everything, there’s always a need for a leader to understand him or herself. There are nonnegotiables, there are triggers. You need to understand the triggers, the areas of weakness, and understand how those elements are significant at every single moment, but also how they can either help or hinder the work in relationship to a community. Leadership, at some level, is always a process of managing oneself in relationship to others. That’s an enormous aspect of the work since the personal authority of the leader is always the most important currency. Personal authority becomes a tool for building a team, for making others serve the mission of the institution. That’s the key to the work. Last, I’ve been lucky in my career in having great mentors. There’s a need to connect with people who have the experience and the goodwill to support one in the work. The Ed.L.D. Program has thought through this. It asks: How do these leaders-in-training benefit from the many, many people who are really rooting for effective leadership in education?