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Conference Panel Tackles the Subject of ‘Imperfect’ Leadership of Education Organizations

A good leader is willing to admit when they have made a mistake, Peter Stiepleman, president of Imperfect Leadership in After Action in Bainbridge Island, Wash., told an AASA conference audience on Thursday.

His session was titled “Imperfect Leaders.”

“Serve as a leading learner,” said Stiepleman, a former superintendent. “Leading with vulnerability is one of the strongest qualities in any leader.”

The goal of the session was to teach human-centered school transformation. This concept consists of three parts: collective aspiration, nested patterns and a leader’s learning work.

“Collective aspiration is the heart of the work that we do,” said Stiepleman. “What it speaks to is a moral focus. Why do you get up in the morning? Why does your organization exist? Is my moral focus, as a leader, in line with the focus of the board and the school?”

Zach Taylor, director of programming at the Santa Fe Center for Transformational School Leadership, said nested patterns involve empathy, compassion and shared leadership. It is a high-level form of collaboration.

“Shared leadership is where everybody feels like they have a voice,” said Taylor. “When people have a voice, they have ownership of what is going on.”

Director of Learning at Colegio Bolivar David Fayad said leaders’ learning work uses the power of language and applies systems and design thinking.

Fayad explained the importance of never assuming how to fix an issue, without thinking and asking others about the situation.

The speakers agreed that starting from the inside out actually changes things. Creating a shared purpose, building on bright spots in the learning environment and reframing the goal to meet everyone’s needs are a few of the steps to real change in a school and in leadership.

(Emily Hughitt is an intern reporter with Conference Daily Online and a sophomore at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.)

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