The design thinker,
in the words of novelist Saul Bellow,
is “a first-class noticer.”
So, what is required of a leader to create and then sustain allophilia between and among different (perhaps antagonistic, even hostile) groups? I suggest three essentials:
1. Vision: Here is a quotation from George Bernard Shaw (frequently and incorrectly attributed to Robert Kennedy): ”You see things and say ‘Why?’; but I dream things that never were and I say ‘Why not?” That statement could also be attributed to all of those on any list of history’s greatest leaders, no matter who they are.
2. Character: As Bill George explains in True North, someone who is authentic, whose internal compass that guides her or him at the deepest level. “It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership.”
3. Judgment: As Roger Martin describes it in The Opposable Mind, someone who has “the predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas” in his head and then “without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other,” can “produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.” That is, so someone who has mastered “integrative thinking.”
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Todd L. Pittinsky earned his A.B. in psychology from Yale University, M.A. in psychology from Harvard, and Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Business School. He is an Associate Professor of Public Policy, and serves as Research Director of the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and is currently on leave.
What makes a Great Teacher (or business leader)? – this: you don’t get better, at much of anything, by accident
The Atlantic has an article entitled What Makes a Great Teacher? by Amanda Ripley. Based on a lengthy, multi-year study of a whole lot of data by Teach For America, some clear conclusions emerge. Here’s my summary of the conclusions:
“You don’t get better (at teaching, or much of anything else) without intentionally trying to get better – all the time.”
I read about the article on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and he included this excerpt:
Great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.” Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing.
Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.
The parallels to business success are rather obvious. Perpetually evaluating what to do, always looking for ways to improve effectiveness; an intense focus; a very serious approach to the task of planning, working backward from the desired outcome; not letting outside circumstances dictate success or failure. Pretty good lessons here from the best teachers among us.