Innovative thinking needs to lead to innovative action.

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” William Pollard

Many educators come up to me and ask about becoming an administrator.  One of the big reasons they share for not wanting to take a path to become a principal or vice-principal is that they see the tasks of the job to be unappealing.

My response?  When you are the principal, you can decide how you want to do things.  There is no manual or script that you have to follow (although there are school districts out there that this might be true) when deciding how you want things to be in a school.

Do you have to do six hour staff meetings? Nope.

Does your professional development have to be only in a “stand-and-deliver” form? Nope.

Do you have to be the sole “decision-maker” in your school? Nope.

There are a ton of things that I saw as a teacher that I swore I would never do to my own staff because I found them to be disengaging to my own practice or an utter waste of my time.  I remember spending 75 minutes as a teacher on a conversation about whether students should be allowed to wear hats in school.  Really?  Is this going to make a significant difference in the type of learning opportunities that will happen in school with our students?  Is this the best use of time?  My belief was that we have a limited amount of time in schools and that as administrators, any chance we get to work with staff we better make the best use of that time.

This is not to say that there is not a lot of things that someone could learn from the administrators before them.  Even the worst principals had things that you could learn and apply to your own practice.  But we often do not need a duplicate of what we had before, but a “remix” of past practice, or sometimes something totally different.

What does this lead to? Often when you display as an administrator at the top of your organization that you are willing to think different and take risks in what you are doing, it gives the freedom to your teachers and students to do the same.  Encouraging risk taking is not that effective unless you are willing to model risk taking.

If we want innovative schools, we need leaders who think different.  Innovative thinking needs to lead to innovative action.

We need courageous leaders who are going to think and act differently.  Until then, I am not sure how anything will change with our students.


  1. It is absolutely true that innovative thinking always needed innovative action to make learning more interesting and creative for kids. It makes them gain confidence and build their better analytical skills.
    Coursework Pal

  2. Neil Lyons

    If districts want more innovative leaders, they need to examine their own hiring and training process. How do these districts promote innovation? How do they help administrators and future-administrators develop their creativity and divergent thinking? Do they reward risk-taking? Are they open to different ways of doing things?

    I have found that districts, and schools, and teachers say they want creative, divergent and innovative principals, teachers and students but not if it’s going to cost them any measure of control or power.

  3. George wrote:

    Encouraging risk taking is not that effective unless you are willing to model risk taking.


    As classroom teacher guy, I couldn’t agree with this statement more, George. It’s always funny to me to hear principals bemoan the lack of innovation and risk taking in their schools when they aren’t modeling that same behavior themselves.

    So why doesn’t this happen more often? Why are school leaders so hesitant to be public risk takers? What is it about their positions that make risk taking so darn risky?

    Hope you’re well,

  4. Chett Daniel

    I’ll admit, I was one of those people who looked what principals were doing and thought, “I don’t want any part of that.” It seems to often principals are expected to act as an echo chamber for educational initiatives that are pushed down from the state and national level. Instead, I obtained my master’s degree in I/O psychology (a strategic human resources degree) and try to find ways to help schools with their HR practices. I blog at . I am glad to read about how you are encouraging principals to approach the job in ways that encourage innovation and risk taking. Keep up the good work!

Comments are closed.