Leaders are Readers

by Jim Pingel

A terrific book for administrators and teachers alike, George Couros’ work is packed with innovative thought and best practices in regard to student learning. Lutherans especially can appreciate his contention that we are at a “printing press” moment in education. Yet, unfortunately, too many twenty-first century schools are inundated with twentieth century learning.

Couros asserts that innovation is much more doable than transformation. Throughout his book, many chapters are dedicated to how administrators and teachers can become innovators in their school and classroom for the sake of student learning. Innovation is a “way of thinking” which “creates something new and better.”

“The Innovators Mindset,” “Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset,” and “Powerful Learning First, Technology Second” are some of the most compelling chapters for all Lutheran administrators and educators to digest. So is this re-occurring theme: Couros insists that having students create something almost every day in class is the best evidence that they are truly learning and retaining the content. He presents research to bolster his contention. So how are your teachers doing in this regard?

The Innovators’ Mindset shares best practices and research in a lucid and easy-to-read manner. Couros’ work informs and challenges the reader, but not in a way that seems daunting or insurmountable (one of his chapters is “Less is More”). This is an excellent staff development book—one of the best to be published in the last ten years.

Lutheran administrators certainly appreciate the power of moments. Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments provides a depth of research on not only how to identify special moments in one’s leadership life, but how to create, enhance, or make the most of moments in order to better serve your organization.

While the authors offer a plethora of research on the topic, the power of book is in its simplicity, clarity, and anecdotal material to accentuate their findings. For example, did you know that when college alumni were asked about their favorite memories from college, 40% of those memories came from the month of September. Why is that? (You’ll have to read to find out.)

For the Lutheran school leader, there are plenty of interesting nuggets that can help you become a stronger leader—individually and collectively. From the “peak-end rule,” to the importance of creating a First Day Experience, Heath and Heath provide a wealth of tools to put in your administrator’s toolbox. The book also lays some compelling research and reasons why schools should design an academic experience as memorable as prom, embrace senior capstone projects or “Senior Exhibitions,” and make school more like a sport.

This is a terrific read for the individual as well as your entire faculty and staff. So take a moment to learn more about making moments more meaningful in your life and the lives of your school community.

Too often leadership or self-help books devolve into one man or one woman’s opinion on the matter based on one’s own life experiences. These reads can be fruitful and enjoyable, perhaps, especially if you like or respect the author. But how scientific, transferable, and generalizable are these solo acts?

Eric Barker’s work provides plenty of research to make profound claims on the science of success. With topics and questions such as: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know (unless it really is what you know)”; “Believe in yourself…sometimes”; “Work, work, work…or work-life balance?”; “Do nice guys finish last?”; and “Do quitters never win and winners never quit?” Barker takes the reader on a fabulous ride of challenging what you think you know about leadership and success.

While a more technical read than other books in this review, Barker mixes plenty of anecdotes throughout his scientific study. One gem that Lutheran administrators can chew on and even let slip out at an upcoming faculty meeting: Barker’s research found that what your boss thinks of you is more important to your success than performance or hard work. Let the flattery and kiss-ups begin.