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McMullan webBy Ann McMullan,

This is the third in a series of five monthly articles providing tips for ed tech vendors to use when working with school clients to implement innovative solutions for teaching and learning. Each month we pull a leadership lesson from Life Lessons in Leadership: The Way of the Wallaby, a book I co-authored with Michael Barrett in 2016. The goal of this book is to provide leaders of all ages – “Leaders Ages 8 to 88” – with memorable strategies for leading people and processes, especially when it comes to navigating change.

In the previous two articles we addressed the critical leadership skills of listening and learning. This month’s reflections are on the topic of love, which is the focus of Chapter 3 in Life Lessons in Leadership: The Way of the Wallaby.


Quite honestly, as your school clients get ready to launch the 2017-2018 school year, serving them with love may be just the type of leadership support they need from you right now. There are clearly many interpretations of the word love. One version from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines love as “unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. It is that very spirit of love that should come into play when working with your clients and your team.

To have authentic impact leaders must truly love the program, product, process and/or people they are leading. This applies to school leaders and to the vendors who serve them. The use of the word love in this concept means having both passion for the work and empathy for the people involved.

Leaders in any capacity do not always have to like the people or processes they are leading. However, being passionate about mutual goals enables one to successfully face the challenges and ambiguities that come with leading innovation and change. That type of passion empowers a leader to forge a path that others will follow.

Collaborating with empathy necessitates a real understanding of your school clients’ needs and aspirations. Your interactions with them should reflect a high degree of thoughtfulness and compassion. Sometimes this can mean you have to acknowledge that the product you hope they will adopt may not be the right fit for their needs or that this is not the optimum time for your product within their organization. Getting to that point of empathetic and compassionate understanding has the potential to save you and your school clients both from failure and from the bad news headlines that often result when an innovative solution is not the right move for a school system. Empathetic collaboration with your school clients keeps the door open for future mutually successful endeavors. Listening, learning and loving are the essential elements for getting your product or program in place at the right time and having it implemented it with fidelity.

Next month we will focus on how best to leverage the talents and expertise of others to maximize your impact as a leader of innovation.

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