Byron's Babbles

Knowing The Water

Yesterday I assumed the role of Chair of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Board of Directors. The day before, in a meeting, I was introduced with the byline that in 24 hours I would be taking the helm. I’m not sure why, but I shivered a little at this. I even said, “I’m not sure what to think about that.” Then, our NASBE Northeastern Area Director, Dr. Audrey Noble (Delaware State Board of Education member) who is an avid boater/sailor said, “You’ll be fine. The key to success at helm is about knowing the water, and you know it well.” She had made a powerful statement there and had said a lot.

Later, as I reflected on that interaction, I remembered an awesome story that came out of World War II. And, of course, the story involves the great leader and 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The story goes that he went to the tent where his soldiers were mapping out a location for the troops to cross a river. Eisenhower pointed at a spot on the map and said, “We will cross here.” One of his troops said, “We cannot cross there, Sir.” Eisenhower asked why not. They told him they were not sure how deep the water was. Eisenhower pointed to his dampened pants leg and said, “It is this deep.” Clearly, he “knew the water.” Eisenhower had taken the time to actually get his feet wet and know where he was sending his troops.

Leadership by example and working shoulder to shoulder with those you serve continue to be the most successful forms of leadership. These concepts can take many different forms, but is expressed well with the phrase that is on a picture that hangs in my den, “Walk The Talk.” Walking the talk is one of my core values. It really speaks to the fact that our character is our legacy. If we say we believe or will act in a certain way, then our actions should prove that. I blogged about this in Walk the Talk!

A helmsman relies on his knowledge of the water he is in, visual references, GPS, other technological tools, and a rudder angle indicator to steer a steady course. Leading in an organization is no different. One must “know the water.”

In The Zoom Where It All Happens

Posted in Citizen Leader, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Hamilton, Leadership, Leading Collectively, NASBE by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 20, 2020

We kicked off our National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Annual Conference week today with our New Member Orientation. This is usually a two day institute that we converted to a half day virtual event. It was awesome with lots of great new state board of education members in attendance. I continue to be amazed at the great learning and relationship building that can happen #learningtogetherapart virtually. As I do many times with events like this, I will attempt to do a blog reflection each day on my learning. As we were getting started today, NASBE’s CEO, Robert Hull, made a play on words from the musical Hamilton and said, “In the Zoom where it all happens.” Of course this was in reference to Aaron Burr’s desire to be in the room “where it all happens.” If we want agency we must be in the room.

This really got me thinking how our ability to expand the number of people we can have have in the [Zoom] room. It is one of the silver linings from what we have learned and our adjustments caused by the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. On Day 222 of the Pandemic we know ways to connect virtual and still have deep conversations and the ability to form relationships. This really gives us even a better way to Lead Collectively, which was one of the topics of our New Member Orientation. We must remember that our voice matters.


Also, when we add our voice to the collective, there is power in our collective voice.


We still have a voice when we become part of a group, organization, or board, but it can become even more influential as part of the collective.


By leading collectively we can make a policy ecosystem that is best for all.


As citizen leaders we take stock of the world around us and help to shape the world for those we care about. A citizen leader is an active participant in her world – not a passive observer. We take on the role of citizen leader because we care deeply about the people and places that stand to benefit by our actions. To be an effective citizen leader we must determine who we are and what we stand for.

Shine Brighter

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 19, 2020

Today in Chapter 8 of Mindset Mondays With DTK, David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) used Marianne Williamson’s classic poem Our Greatest Fear to point out we should “Play Bigger.” There is the greatest question ever in her poem: “…who are you not to be?” As Williamson makes very clear; we are designed by God to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous. The wonderful part is that “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous” looks different on each one of us. Therefore, we must go out and BE! We must BE brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous in carrying out our bold purpose in life. Here is the poem:

By Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

My favorite part of the poem is: “We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.” You heard that, didn’t you? “Everyone,” yes, “everyone.” We all get to shine! Think about those who have inspired you the most. You’ve probably noticed that these are people who are tapped into something bigger than themselves – the ones who leave us craving that same feeling for ourselves. So what is the difference between you and that extraordinary individual? I got news for you – NOTHING. Stop playing small, and shine.

How can you play big and shine even brighter?

Eccentric and Unorthodox and Quirky! Oh My!

Posted in Creativity, Curiosity, Eccentric, Educational Leadership, Joyful, Leadership, Quirky, Unorthodox by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 17, 2020

Let’s face it, eccentrics are the people who see problems from new and unexpected angles; whose very oddity allows them to conjure innovative solutions. They are the visionaries who make giant imaginative leaps. I’ve actually blogged about this before in Leading With A Touch Of Quirkiness. Ingrid Fetell Lee told us to quit being bound by convention; our quirkiness brings joy to the world. We need to celebrate creativity.

I was reminded of this when flipping through the channels (do we still call them that, or am I aging myself?) after the NLCS game last night and coming across Night Court. Night Court, ran on NBC from 1984 to 1992. Harry Anderson starred as the young, unorthodox, and magic-trick performing Judge Harry Stone presiding over the anything-goes atmosphere of New York Municipal Court’s night shift. I had forgotten about this great show so stayed on the channel and watched some of it. Harry was up on insubordination charges and was described as being eccentric. It was said by the presiding judge that being eccentric is how we become effective and get things done to help others. Long story short, the case was dismissed.

As a person who resembles being eccentric, unorthodox, and quirky at times, this really got me to reflecting on why so many see this as a bad thing and so few dare to be eccentric; when really it isn’t such a bad thing after all David Weeks, psychologist, did some research into the eccentricities of 1,000 subjects. Weeks found eccentrics to be highly creative and that they tend to be optimistic people with a highly developed, mischievous sense of humour, childlike curiosity and a drive to make the world a better place. It would seem to me that we need more of this. Just saying!

Weeks found the study subjects to live slightly longer, suffer less from mental illness, have very few alcohol or drug abusers, and visit the doctor less. Therefore, if we eliminate the struggle to conform we probably suffer less stress. Again, as we learned from Ingrid Fetell Lee, a little quirkiness will help bring joy into our lives. And…into the world.

So, go ahead and don’t be ashamed to be curious, creative, and a little quirky!

Just Pay Attention

Posted in Educational Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 17, 2020

My wife and I just finished watching all seven seasons of The Mentalist. I love it when a show reminds us how important it is to continue to hone and develop our leadership skills. This television series is about Patrick Jane, played by Simon Baker, a man who at one time pretended to be a psychic. He made a lot of money doing this, but his arrogance as a fake psychic caused his family to be murdered. This caused him to stop pretending and begin a crusade of calling out the fact that there is no such thing as a psychic. Jane then went to work for the Californian Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and later in the series for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), helping them solve murder cases.

What Patrick Jane did have, however, was very keen powers of observation and a lot of chutzpah. I know The Mentalist is just a television show, but it was amazing to watch as Patrick Jane explained what he knew about a suspect or a witness, just from observing or talking with them. The key was, he was using all his senses, literally. During the series we saw him use sight, smell, feel, hearing, and smell to understand. Body language, clothes, nervous habits, accents, the things a person surrounds themselves with – they all tell a story, if we really pay attention to what we see, smell, feel, hear, and taste.

Patrick Jane also questions things that seem to be out of place, uses his senses, and looks for what people value. Even more importantly, he empathizes. Jane has incredible emotional intelligence. He expands that emotional intelligence to include others – Patrick Jane communicates better by staying focused on the person he’s with, making eye contact, paying attention to nonverbal cues, watching how others are reacting as he is talking to someone else, and sometimes taking there hand or wrist to feel there pulse. In other words he is just paying attention, or as I call it, reading the room. Staying tuned in emotionally with people makes our ability to build and grow relationships even stronger.

Take Off The Mask & Cut Out Those Frustrations

Posted in 3D Leadership, DTK, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Mindset Mondays, Women Igniting Change by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 13, 2020

Ever trip over yourself? David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) reminded us this week in Chapter 7 of Mindset Mondays with DTK to “Get Out of Your Own Way.” We need to integrate the brain and body by using awareness and intention.

Interestingly, this weekend I did an activity for a leadership training using pumpkins. Participants had to carve their pumpkin using this prompt: “Truths that frustrate you.” This gave participants a chance to ponder where those frustrations come from. Many times those frustrations come from ourselves. We become frustrated when our decisions are not aligned with our core values and purpose.

We need to take time to take an introspective look at ourselves and listen to what both our mind and body are telling us. Then trust what we hear and not sabotage ourselves. Sometimes if we took time to name our frustrations (or carve them into a pumpkin) it gives us the chance to reflect on and even remove the mask that those frustrations form.

As Robbin Jorgensen did in DTK’s story, we can change and cut the frustrations out (pun intended) and remove the mask. Jorgensen’s Women Igniting Change movement is giving women the power to take action around the world. By taking off her own mask she was able to reflect, listen to herself deeply and then trust her own decisions.

What’s keeping you from making the impact you want to make in the world?

Power To Do

Last week while in a very deep discussion during a 3D Leadership session we were talking about leadership and power. We were discussing the five forms of power from French and Raven (1959). Here are those five forms of power:

French & Raven, 1959

First of all, the group talked about how great it is that we continue to move from forms of power to levels of what John Maxwell called 5 Levels of Leadership. The group acknowledged how negative most of the five levels of power are, but that those powers exist, how they can be used for positive, and how we should use them for creating positive environments. One of the positive forms of power is “referent.” I have blogged about this power before in The Majestic Leader. Also, here are Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership:

Then someone made a brilliant statement: “The five forms of power have such a limited scope.” I asked what she meant, and she said, “Those are all about ‘power over’ and we should be thing about ‘power to do’.” Again, another brilliant statement! “Power to do!” Now that’s a power we need to develop – Self empowerment.

Therefore, as leaders it’s important to inspire empowerment in others. After all, when people feel powerful, it boosts their self-confidence, which further enhances their work and performance. Inspiring others is often the mark of a great leader, but how do you do that effectively? Being an inspiring leader was the theme of this gathering. To truly empower others we must empower ourselves to be inspirational leaders. How do we do that? Here’s what our teacher leaders said:

  1. Show up – Inspirational leaders understand the significance of just being there. I actually heard from teachers in this gathering that they wished that the school leaders would just come visit there schools and more importantly, their classrooms. You can’t take care of your peeps if you aren’t with your people and that means going to street level and getting shoulder to shoulder.
  2. Be present – This is different than showing up; we must really be present by having open ears and listening, asking the right questions, and having humility.
  3. Withitness – Great leaders position themselves so they can see everything. This is also about being actively engaged.

As leaders of learning we have a key role to play in delivering quality learning. In order to do this it is important to understand the purpose and impact of our role and the impact we have on others. In the case of education, the task of leadership is to make visible the how, why and where of learning. It achieves this by conversations and demonstrations around pupil learning, professional learning and learnings which transcend the boundaries of the school. The challenge for leadership is to nurture the dialogue, to make transparent ways in learning interconnects and infuses behavior.  It promotes a continuing restless inquiry into what works best, when, where, for whom and with what outcome. Its vision is of the intelligent school and its practice intersects with the wider world of learning.

Never forget, the way we see leadership, learning and the quality of our schools, businesses, or organizations is ultimately a product of how we see and think about ourselves. Remember, we have the “power to do.”

Safety Nets Instead Of Safety Barriers

Posted in DTK, Leadership, Mindfulness, Mindset Mondays, REWIRE by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 4, 2020

Funny that David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) talked of becoming a grown-up with our fully formed prefrontal cortex, giving us more rational and limiting beliefs. Funny because I had someone (who I have worked with and have a great relationship with), in a loving way, describe me as having the mindset of an eighth grader this past week. Well, I resemble that remark. Grown-up, I am not; and proud of it.

DTK described some of his childhood “rope-in-the-tree” swinging antics that landed him with a broken nose and shattered wrist. His last statement about the story was, “Sadly, my parents forbade any future effort to test my theory.” Probably no one else reading DTK’s book would highlight that sentence but me. But, there is such a fine line between protecting us, which his parents were very well, and beginning to limit our beliefs with, so called, “rationale thinking.”

This is a pretty extreme example, but as an educational leader I think about this a lot. What’s the correct balance of risk-taking and over-protection? What might DTK have learned if after he healed, he had retested his rope swinging theory again? I am not suggesting that we put our children, or ourselves for that matter in harms way, but I am a believer that we cannot live risk-free. What if Thomas Edison had quit risking failure after electric light bulb prototype 9,999?

For me, it’s about the “what if?” I would rather admit failure than having to explain “what if?” DTK in Chapter 6 of Mindset Mondays With DTK told us we must not let ourselves become victims. We have clear choices and clear steps to make a shift in believing in ourselves. We need an “I can” mindset giving us a belief that we are strong and capable. DTK told us, “Who we believe we are matters.” It is so important that we allow for risk with our children and all we serve. Again, I am not advocating putting anyone in harms way, but finding a way to be a safety net. That metaphorical, or maybe even real one, looks like allowing for risk, but allowing for failure so that learning can happen.

To take those risks it is very important that we make sure that we, our children, and those we serve hear “I can” instead of “I can’t.” We need to be safety nets and not safety barriers.

Approaching The World With A Sense Of Childlike Wonder

Posted in Creativity, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 4, 2020

The Creative Mindset: Mastering the Six Skills That Empower Innovation by Jeff Degraff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes I believe we need to eliminate the word “innovation” from our vocabulary because we inhibit deep innovation by skipping the more important “being creative.” This book reminds us and guides us through practical and everyday creativity. We are also reminded that achieving a creative mindset is possible for everyone and what we need to do is simple – approach the world with a sense of childlike wonder.

I’m not going to talk about all six skills covered in the book, because I want you to read it, but as a person who leads and works by metaphors and analogies I found the guide of the skill “Associate – Connecting Ideas With Analogies” extremely helpful. By using the associating techniques of direct analogies, personal analogies, symbolic analogies, and fantasy analogies we can reverse analogies, use idea bridges, and use adaptive reasoning to tap into our creative mindset.

This then leads to the other skill that provided a great deal of personal growth for me: “Translate: Creating Stories From Ideas.” We are reminded in this part of the book that for us to translate creativity to innovations we must have all key stakeholders as a part of the process. A case study is used to describe how just leaving one stakeholder outbid the project caused a wildly creative and successful innovation to fail.

If you want to become a leader with a fully honed creative mindset who enables that same creative mindset in those you serve, you must read this book. Your first step to accelerating down the runway of your creativity taking off is to make this book a part of your personal growth plan.

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Hidden In Common Firewood

Posted in Bob Tiede, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 3, 2020

“There is a legend of an artist who long sought for a piece of sandalwood, out of which to carve a Madonna. He was about to give up in despair, leaving the vision of his life unrealized, when in a dream he was bidden to carve his Madonna from a block of oak wood which was destined for the fire. He obeyed and produced a masterpiece from a log of common firewood. Many of us lose great opportunities in life by waiting to find sandalwood for our carvings, when they really lie hidden in the common logs that we burn.” ~ Orison Swett Marden

During my morning study time I came across this passage from Orison Swett Marden. There is a lot to unpack in this short paragraph. Then I thought about the value of this as a prompt. So, instead rambling on with my thoughts, I’m going to employ a best practice from my friend and great author, Bob Tiede: ask you all a question. What lesson do you take away from this Orison Swett Marden passage that you want others to think about and act on?Please add your answer as a comment to this post.