Dr. Grauer's Column - The Joy That Sustains
Leadership Team: The Joy that Sustains
If we are going to be on mission, and on A mission, we have to trust in and empower strong leadership. Our collaborative leadership model enables our leadership to be deep, sustainable, and shared.
As Head of School, I do not “manage” our school. It is co-managed by our leadership team (and various program leaders). I am incredibly fortunate to have a phenomenal leadership team. I have participated in building “leadership capacity” in all these leaders for many years, and now these leaders are training other leaders …all of whom are training one another, and me, all the time! It’s cross-pollination and it is self-renewing.
The School had a leadership team before I even knew what a leadership team did or was—in the early days of the school, I just knew that I needed to be surrounded by people who were "smarter than me.” Whenever we realized a teacher at the school was engaged in whole-school change activities that were sustained, we added them to this team. For my part, I always went about it backwards: rather than appoint someone to a position of trust and then expect them to perform in that position, I always identified people who were performing as leaders naturally and then informed them: You’re on the team! Eventually we called it a “leadership team.” I don’t believe it was a conscious decision, it just evolved, sort of tribally.
Originally, our leadership team focused hard on the individual students: weekly, we would review lots of data and observations and determine which students (or teachers) needed an extra hand. That shifted in 2012. I returned from my sabbatical with a fresh view “from 35,000 feet,” and could see that we needed a new focus. At that point, off-loading and explaining all the innermost workings of the school to this amazing team became my mission: more about the heritage and history, how the finances worked, how the board worked, how we marketed, what our strategy for success was, and as much vision as I could pack into every meeting. So the work of analyzing student and teacher needs was transferred over to a newly-formed “Dean Team.”
When our collaborative leadership model is working at its best, it frees me up as the Head of School to focus on the long range, the big picture, and the entire educational landscape, which is in terrible need of vision in our world. As Head at Grauer, I can uniquely focus on the largest possible issues (“vision”) and the smallest possible details (that others might not notice). The rest of the mission, including the general operations and day to day functioning, is worn like a badge on every Grauer leader.
We are unbelievably lucky, although dream teams don’t build themselves. I can’t imagine sustainability or succession without an empowered, super high-trust leadership team. The Grauer School leadership team is your guarantee that even if I, as the founder and developer of the school, were hit by a train, my vision is shared and refined and furthered by a whole team of visionaries. I call it the “hit by a train scenario,” though maybe I shouldn’t type that.
The members of the leadership team are phenomenal, loyal, brilliant torchbearers who guarantee the future stability and sustainability more than anything else I know. They are Patricia Young, Dana Abplanalp-Diggs (who runs the meetings), Trevor Olsen, Isaac Langen, Morgan Brown, Shelley Boniwell, and Alicia Tembi — plus, Dean Team members Erin Langen and Clayton Payne sit in from time to time, on call. There are a great many other teams of leaders all around the School, but this team has met with me for at least a half hour every week for many years now and they bear our brand. (We were meeting more than twice as often through the pandemic stay at home days.)
The Grauer Leadership Team has not stagnated for one second: the inspiration keeps flowing. At the same time, only with a strong team ensuring stability, can we make time to consider the biggest questions:
—How can we have a more sustainable community?
—How can our teachers and students connect better with the natural world?
—Is there anything we can do for the benefit of those who may come to the School seven generations from now?
I could not be more grateful or lucky for being on this team of joyful, devoted, inspired teacher/mentors. They are my family. And every Grauer family is extremely fortunate that this team is purring behind the scenes at all times. With Grauer leadership, we are changing education, putting small schools education on the map worldwide, and empowering youths in life affirming ways every day. Let’s all thank a leader today.
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