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Friday, October 23, 2015


(Below is the post I made as guest blogger to the Advancing Educational Leadership website - http://ael.education/blog/2015/interconnectedness)

For those who choose the demanding but rewarding path of servant leadership, one of the most challenging tasks we face is to understand the concept of interconnectedness.  The most effective and influential leaders have developed the ability to see, and to operate in, both the macro and the micro, simultaneously.  This mastery is usually manifested in direct proportion to their understanding of the complex web of interdependency and interconnectedness of the myriad structures, processes, and people that compose the working parts of the organizations they lead. 

Organizations resemble greatly the wholeness of a tree (image below).

The natural tendency is to think of a tree simply – as a noun, made up of nouns, such as the trunk, branches, leaves, and roots.  In reality, however, a tree is a verb, a complex set of structures, processes, and elements (both living and non-living) that are enmeshed in a dynamic, beautiful, and magical dance.  When all the leaves, the branches, the trunk, the xylem, the phloem, the minerals, the photosynthesis, the water, the fungal net, the microbial communities… (this list goes on and on) are in sync and rhythm, the result is a beautiful and self-sustaining organism, with each “player” acting its part in perfect harmony. 

Organizations should be thought of in the same light.  Rich, healthy, and vibrant organizations are the product of that same kind of interconnected harmony that exists in a healthy tree.  As servant-leaders, we are charged with the caretaking and wellness of the organization.  Consequently, a deep understanding of the structures, the processes, and the elements is critical.  More important even than understanding the “parts” is the need to understand the symbiotic relationships between and among those parts. 

In viewing organizations in this way, we can see patterns and coherent webs as they emerge, extend, and grow.  What we don’t see is the kind of hierarchical, linear, and contrived structures we do in organizational charts and chains of command.  To be strong servant-leaders we must see, and attend to, the whole and the parts, concurrently.  And, we must become relationship experts as part and parcel of our work.    

The crafters of Advanced Educational Leadership (AEL) recognized and implemented this understanding of interconnectedness and interdependence into the AEL tools that will be used to train school leaders in Texas for years to come.  The five themes of AEL (Creating Positive School Culture; Establishing and Sustaining Vision, Mission, and Goals; Developing Self and Others; Improving Instruction; Managing Data and Processes) and the seven strands of AEL (Curriculum and Instruction; Data Gathering and Analysis; Goal Setting; Effective Conferencing Skills; Conflict Resolution Skills; Team Building Skills; Teacher Coaching and Mentoring) have been masterfully interwoven into a tapestry of necessary knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking.  Even the AEL conceptual graphic representation depicts the underlying premise of interconnectedness and non-linearity.

Finally, to extend the tree analogy just once more.  We cannot understand a tree through the lens of only one academic discipline.  To understand trees deeply we must understand dendrology, ecology, hydrology, biology, biochemistry, entomology, geology, pedology, and a host of other –ologies.  Likewise, to be the most effective servant-leaders, we must be on a constant path of personal and professional learning across a broad range of disciplines in order to better understand the very organizations in whose health and wellbeing we have been entrusted. 

What a learning journey it is!

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