Hacking Leadership

Being a new DP I have lots to learn about how to do this role really well. I have been enjoying reading “Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love.” by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis.


The book is written in a super easy format and has lots of practical ideas and tips. I’d recommend it, so far.

The book begins with a provocative question – “Would you enjoy being a teacher or a student in your school? ….Is there any hesitation in your answers? Be honest.” Woah! OK, time to reflect honestly!

It then goes on to seemly speak directly to me…”checking emails and efficiently completing paperwork doesn’t fulfill the needs of the modern school” – Uh oh, I pride myself on being relatively efficient and replying to emails in a pretty timely manner. Of course, you know this but it’s always good to have a reminder/kick up the butt that your real work is with the learners, both of the child and teacher variety.

So instead of being efficient, what is ‘hacking’ leadership all about?

“… empowering other people so they can achieve their hopes, dream and goals.”

Now that sounds like a worthy aspiration. How do the authors think we can achieve this?

Chapter One is all abut being present, visible and engaged. The authors tell us that communities need school leaders who understand that they have a direct impact on school culture. It is the leader’s responsibility to listen, be present, find out other people’s perspectives and be seen as lead learners.

A good thing about this book is all the practical ideas the authors give. Here are a few I’d like to try:

  • Diarise (and prioritise this intentionally I guess) time for relationship building
  • Be intentional about asking questions and taking the temperature of the community as a whole
  • Have informal lunch dates with groups of kids (and ask strategic questions in this time to elicit information)
  • Celebrate in public – I need to use our school’s Facebook account and get involved in this platform
  • Make a list of staff members I connect with meaningfully and make sure I connect with everyone (I need to decide what period of time is realistic for this)
  • Start a lunch time club (maybe… I need to think about what this could be…)
  • Go beyond modeling being a learner, which I think I do, to encouraging others to be lead learners.

Something that stands out for me here is the strategic nature of leadership. I really learned this when I taught at Stonefields School, where they talked frequently about being “strategically organic.” This has stuck with me. I think sometimes we hope for things to happen, rather than being strategic and intentional about making them happen – not leaving things to chance.

More on this book next time…


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