Byron's Babbles

Notes On Servanthood

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 25, 2012


Yesterday I blogged a post entitled Rushmorean Servant Leadership Today during my study time I came across the notes I have pictured above. These notes were from John C. Maxwell’s The Maxwell Leadership Bible.

“Leaders add value by serving others” (p.814).

“Lead others by serving not bossing them” (p. 814).

“People don’t at first follow worthy causes; they follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. People buy in to the leader first, then the leader’s vision. Listeners filter every message through the messenger who delivers it. You cannot separate the leader from the cause he promotes” (p.286).

As leaders these are important points for us to reflect and act on!


Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The Maxwell leadership Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc.


Rushmorean Servant Leadership

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 24, 2012

Christ’s Entry Into Brussels
James Ensor

I was prompted today to write about servant leadership; or really leading from where you are. Really I guess I am combining three important concepts to leadership here, but I believe they are not mutually exclusive. First, I believe leaders must be servants, not title holders. Second, I believe everyone must have the ability to lead from where they are, and finally, I believe we must use Christ’s model and lead from the middle.

Let’s explore my three thoughts. As leaders we lose the right to be selfish. Leadership is about serving others, not wielding power because of a title. Great leaders please others, not themselves. The great leaders I admire add value to others’ lives. We should also, as effective leaders, emulate Christ’s model. Finally, as a servant leader we must remain life-long learners and teachable. As the saying goes, “Leaders are Learners.”

Every day when I walk into school, I remind myself that it is not about me. It is about everyone else that I serve. My goal is to make myself the most dispensable person in the building. Imagine how effective our team will be if every person is empowered and has been given the personal, professional growth to lead, educate, and operationalize everything in our high school.

Additionally, I believe we must lead from where we are. I am a card-carrying believer that every person in our high school is a leader – from the person who empties the trash to the students, the teachers, and right to me. I learn from someone in those groups each and every day. Wheatley (2007) promoted a more unstructured style of leadership, which promotes self-organization. She contended that most leaders use control and imposition rather than a self-organizing process (Wheatley, 2007). I believe the more control is imposed on people and situations the more they are made uncontrollable. Wheatley (2007) considered self-organizing systems to have the capacity to create for themselves the aspects of organizations that we thought authoritarian leaders had to provide. Therefore, it is important for leaders to create a culture where individuals are free and the need to create is met (Wheatley, 1992, 2007).

We really need to move from leader-centered organizations to leadership-centered organizations. There must, in my opinion, be a sharing of leadership responsibilities. Schultz (2011) asserted that by flattening the hierarchy and moving toward a shared leadership model, positive outcomes result from a reciprocal influence between leaders and followers. This is the concept I mentioned as my third concept of Christ’s model of leading from the middle. Schultz (2011) recommended sharing leadership with others. This is really important on two fronts – 1. I want everyone in our organization to be empowered to provide leadership anytime they see a need; and, 2. I want to be leading from within right along side everyone, not out in front where I can’t see what is going on. From the middle I can help pull people along and can also help push. Effective leaders are hands-on and operational giving them the situational awareness necessary to be curious, learn, and take action.

I included the image of my favorite painting in this post – Christ’s Entry Into Brussels, by James Ensor. I was first introduced to this painting when I read Leading Change: Overcoming the Ideology of Comfort and the Tyranny of Custom by James O’Toole (1995). This book is displayed in my office as one of the top five literary influences on my life. In this book O’Toole introduces the idea of values-based leadership that he calls, Rushmorean Leadership. Based off of the leaders chiseled into Mount Rushmore. As O’Toole said: “I prefer to think of the four as the best representatives of a school of values-based leadership dedicated to democratic change” (O’Toole, 1995, p.21). It is important to think about how all four Presidents led: they listened to others, encouraged dissenting opinion, empowered authority to their subordinates, and led by example instead of power, title, manipulation, or coercion.

Now, back to the painting by Ensor. If you enlarge it you will find Christ in the middle where we always find Christ, among us. Look close at the painting and you will find him in the middle of chaos, just like most of us lead in every day. Remember, he led by becoming one of us and teaching us among us. He would not have had to do this, but it was the only way. He led by example, he listens, and he empowers us each and every day to be the best we can be to serve. Take a moment and reflect on your role as a servant leader. Would O’Toole call you Rushmorean? Are you leading from the middle like Christ?


O’Toole, J. (1995). Leading change: Overcoming the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schultz, D. (2011). Sharing leadership. Leadership Excellence, 28(2), 16-17.

Wheatley, M.J. (1992). Leadership and the new science: Learning about organization from an orderly universe. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Wheatley, M.J. (2007). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Lead With Clarity Not Certainty

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 19, 2012

In my daily study time yesterday I read Job 38:2-3. In that passage it says: “Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer Me.” You ever been around that person who wants to make sure you know that they know it all – or at least think they do? I am always amazed at how leaders will begin giving details about subjects, events, happenings, initiatives without really knowing all the details. I guess it is that innate feeling we have that we need to be in the know and in authority. As an educational leader I have always found it to be far more effective to be very clear about what I know and what I don’t know – and then go out and find the resources to get clarity.

I believe those I lead do not need me to always be certain, but they do need me to be clear. Individuals can live without certainty from a leader, but not without clarity. “Your people do not need certainty on every issue, but they do need clarity on every issue” (Maxwell, 2003). Leaders must be genuine with their people.


Maxwell, J. C. (2003). Leadership promises for every day. Nashville, TN: Maxwell Motivation, Inc.

Rental Car Leadership Lessons

Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 16, 2012


From a business travel standpoint, rental cars are a necessity, but recently I began to realize there are leadership lessons to be learned from these rental cars. I pride myself on staying up on the latest gadgets and technology, but let’s face it, this is no longer an easy task. I cannot even imagine leaving home without my iPad and iPhone, or taking a trip without my Powerbag Charging Backpack to keep the iPad and iPhone charged. These items have transformed our lives.

In that same vane think about how the competition has effected the leadership of the automobile industry. In the past month I have rented four different vehicles; a Chevrolet Camaro, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet HHR, and a Ford Escape. Even though I’m a GM guy and partial to Camaro and Buick, there are a few things I really like about the Escape. Such as the tapered cup holders. For a guy who hates travel mugs with lids I walk out of the house with a regular coffee cup. With the Escapes design all of my cups have fit – now that’s pretty cool!

Because I backed into the gate post in front of my house and sideswiped the whole passenger side of my truck I will have the Escape for at least seven more days while they fix my truck. In this time I’ve become attached to some of the features and niceties, such as the touch screen.

The speedometer superimposed into the windshield of a new Chevrolet Camaro isn’t distracting at all, and in fact allows you to know your speed without losing sight of the road. Also, you don’t have to worry about checking your air pressure anymore because your car does it for you.

Now my truck has a lot of nice features, but is amazing how much has advanced since 2009. I have learned to take my car rentals seriously, making sure my latest rental “toy” has everything I want and need.

What I would really like to do is design a truck with all of the favorite designs and features of my favorite rentals. That would be quite the truck don’t you think? But isn’t this exactly how we should build our learning organization teams? Select all the right people with all the latest features and skills so when they come together they make the ideal vehicle for moving our organizations forward.

Transformational leadership requires that we study all the people available, just like I have been studying my rental cars to put all the best features together. Think about this next time your in a rental or admiring the cool stuff someone else’s car has to offer.

Win The Day!

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 4, 2012

My “Win The Day!” Plaque Made By My Son, Heath

It seems like such a simple phrase, but “Win The Day!” has really become my mantra as a principal of a turnaround academy. I must admit that it was actually my son, Heath, that turned me on to this phrase and the importance of living it. Heath, at age 11, is a huge Oregon Ducks fan. He even has a goal of playing for the Ducks, whose mantra is “Win The Day!” It really has even become a part of the University of Oregon football program. Heath has studied the program and has taught me what it means to them.

Win The Day!

Chip Kelly’s top-ranked Oregon Ducks claim “Win the Day” as their motto. It’s splashed on a Eugene billboard, in the locker room and in giant letters on the players’ entrance to Autzen Stadium. With the Ducks’ offense smoking opponents and Kelly inspiring a gurulike following, “Win the Day” has become a team identity, a fan rallying cry and even a brand. “To me, it means you take care of what you can control, and what we can control is today,” Kelly said. “I think people too often look way down the road — you know, ‘I want to do this, I want to do that, I want to be conference champion, national champion.’ If you don’t take care of Tuesday, that’s not going to happen.”

‘Win the Day” resonates with me, because to accomplish stuff, you have to focus on the day. As a leader, I need all of our team of teachers and staff to hone in like a laser on those things that we have control of and that we can do today. My most treasured item in my office is three foot piece of 2×4 that my son found in the garage and made into a “Win The Day” plaque for me. Heath painted it in Emmerich Manual High School colors. Trust me, I look at it every day. I even have teachers who come into my office and touch it like the Oregon Ducks players do.

Winning the day can mean many things, but to me it means giving all I have every day and making the most out of the things I can control. As a leader, I owe it to all those I serve to “Win The Day!”