Many school leaders are busy appointing new leaders for 2023. Although it is tempting to promote people who agree with you and make you feel safe, this is a sure way to undermine leadership potential.
Some disasters can be traced back to a team's refusal to listen to dissenting voices. An infamous case is the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, in which seven crew members were killed. The disaster was televised live across America, traumatising the nation. Investigations into the tragedy revealed that engineers had raised concerns with their managers about the safety of the shuttle's O-rings in cold temperatures. But under tense deadline pressures, managers elected to ignore the dissenting voices.
The Challenger disaster is often used as a case study of 'groupthink'. Groupthink is the notion that a team may ignore dissenting voices to maintain team cohesion. The Challenger disaster shows that for a team to make effective decisions, it must tolerate dissenting voices and encourage them. The benefit of encouraging disagreement is that it leads to the sharing of more diverse information. This gives the leader the best information to act on.
The concept of groupthink has provided leaders with a license to encourage critical thinking in leadership teams and reject superficial conformity. However, perhaps because of the challenging times, some leaders might unwittingly return to groupthink and promoting people who offer them comfort and security rather than rigour and excellence. Instead of selecting the best people to help realise a vision, leaders may choose people who sure up a power base. Such manoeuvres have their origins in focus on self-preservation rather than vision.
A vital function of the leader is to appoint people who see reality differently from them and cultivate a culture where they are invited to share what they see. The problem with that is that as leaders we must accept that we don't have all the answers. And this can be tough. The best leaders I have worked with select people who will best help them realise their vision. These leaders want to hear the concerns of all team members, so they don't run their ship into an iceberg.
Why am I talking to you about this? Right now, in schools across our state, school leaders are busy appointing new leaders for 2023 and reshaping their teams. Although promoting people who agree with you is tempting, this is not in the best interest of school communities. I hope educational leaders are brave and appoint people with the skillsets and perspectives to address our future challenges, even if it makes us feel a little uncomfortable. By doing this we will achieve the best outcomes for our students which is at the heart of our work.