Part 7: LEADING THROUGH COMPLEXITY and ANXIETY CLARITY IS KEY

Updated: Jul 22, 2020





Supporting cultural and contextual stability in complex, chaotic times demands leaders who can stay the course and hold their nerve until they get the results they want. While being relentless, leaders must maintain a slow pace using deliberate reasoning, sober reflection and collaborative decision-making based on data that comes in many forms. These actions will identify and sustain a clear path to all students’ success – the ultimate mission, vision and values -in an unprecedented wholistic move towards equity and excellence. For all.


In this paper, we explore a detailed look at what it takes to use data, depicted in graphic organizer format, to ensure the right work at the right time is accomplished in the right way to increase all students’ growth and achievement. This work requires leaders to be deliberate in their own learning, as well as in their leadership. The data collected by every leader must provide an ongoing reflection on the impact of leadership to empower teachers and ensure the successful learning of every student.


Figure 1.1 demonstrates that leading and learning are synonymous: that is, leading to learn and learning to lead flow throughout an organization. In this description of a learning organization everyone sees themselves as a leader, surrounded by ‘Knowledgeable Others’ who have specific skills sets, at the ready, anytime and anywhere – with a line of sight to every FACE of every learner, images focused by the clarity of the data. It is the relationships between the layers of leadership and the focus that every leader gives to the critical relationship between teachers and students that develops the ‘Third Teacher’: a culture of learning within all contexts (Sharratt, 2019).


Figure 1.1: The FACES of Learning Leaders


In Figure 1.2, the 14 Parameters of System and School improvement are displayed (CLARITY, Sharratt, 2019). The 14 Parameter Matrix in Appendix A of the CLARITY text, developed by Petersen and Sharratt, is a leadership guide and includes the essential bookends: Parameter 1, Shared Beliefs and Understandings, and Parameter 14, Shared Responsibility and Accountability (See Figure 1.2).


Figure 1.2: The 14 Parameters of System and School Improvement

In Figure 1.3, we stress that these two parameters are the constants in every system and school leaders’ toolkit and this calls for a ‘direct line-of-sight’ to every learner. The critical relationship between teacher and student involves knowing every FACE, beyond the academics to embracing not only cognitive insights but also social/emotional connections to all students in their care.

Each layer of leadership make decisions that influences the work of the next layer of leaders and that ultimately impacts student learning. It is in understanding their influences and impacts that allows every leader to make informed decisions about their next actions.

Figure 1.3: Line of Sight from Systems to FACES


The following Five Questions for leaders and teachers provide a ‘Thinking Framework’ that can support all layers of leadership to make informed decisions about their leadership and to learn from the influence and impact of those decisions.

Our ‘Thinking Framework’ can be considered around a series of question stems.

  1. What? What work are we doing in our role to empower every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  2. Why? Why are we doing this work in our role to empower every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  3. How? How are we doing this work in our role to empower every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  4. Impact? How do I know the work in my role has empowered every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  5. What next? What is the next work needed to enable every teacher to teach every student?

In this leading/learning scenario, illustrated in Figure 1.4, “The What” is defined as an understanding of the relationship between teacher and student. This relationship is one of teaching and learning. (Parameters 1, 4, 14)


Figure 1.4: The What? Why? How? IMPACT?


Empowered teaching, as illustrated in Figure 1.5, is defined as teaching that is

  • Purposefully aligned to the expectations of learning defined within curriculum standards

  • Informed by strengths in student capabilities to engage in, think about, communicate and improve in their own learning