Byron's Babbles

Compelling Purpose

compelling-purpose-01It was such an honor to support the launch of the 10-year anniversary edition of The Serving Leader. I love having the opportunity to collaborate with Becky Robinson and all the great individuals at Weaving Influence. Being part of their launch teams has enabled me to grow personally as a leader and hopefully provide valuable information about potential books for other leaders to read, both through my blog posts and Tweets.

I am particularly glad I had the opportunity to read The Serving Leader, not only because it is a great book, but also because it really hit home with some things I am experiencing first hand right now as a school leader. I love the way the book has provided us with ways to navigate so many of the real-life challenges and opportunities that face leaders every day. By reading and reflecting on the book, I was able to put myself in those situations or go back and think about past experiences and think through the proper way to respond. The key word here is “respond,” instead of reacting. The book gives lessons on Five Powerful Actions:

  1. Run to Great Purpose
  2. Upend the Pyramid
  3. Raise the Bar
  4. Blaze the Trail
  5. Build on Strength

51z48kIs3CL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_For this post, I want to focus on “running to a great purpose” and “building on strengths.” I believe Kenneth Jennings and John Stahl-Wert (2016) got it right when they said, “Failing to provide workers with a link between their daily tasks and a great and compelling purpose is tantamount to managerial malpractice (p. 137).” It is possible for everyone in an organization and even the stakeholders supporting the organization to run toward a greater purpose. As a school leader of turnaround schools that have been in need of cultural, operational, and academic changes I have learned that the team needs a compelling purpose. For us, this has become being a “Real School” and “Students First.” Think about it…doesn’t every student deserve a “real school” and to be put at the top of the priority list.

This book really reinforced the idea that part of being a serving leader is to create and cultivate an exciting fully engaged workforce. We all know that workforce engagement, or the idea that we all believe that what we are doing makes a difference for the organization we work for and the people we serve. To that end it is very important that every individual understands his/her role in carrying out the purpose of the organization. We must, as is pointed out in the book, recognize that those we lead are looking to us to help them understand why the role he/she is playing is crucial to carrying out the great purpose.

I’m really proud of how we have been running toward a great purpose as a school. Through our Focused Leader Academy, becoming a learning organization, and making decisions in a collaborative fashion we are building on the strengths of our staff, which is  becoming very engaged. Our teachers do understand the difference they are making in the world. Every day I see more of our teachers stepping up into teacher leadership roles. I would like to share a couple of comments written by a teachers applying to be part of our School Improvement Team. I believe that our vision is being translated into every daily work assignment (Jennings & Stahl-Wert, 2016). Here are the comments:

“As a school, our primary focus is upholding the expectation that all students will achieve academically. As educators, we strive to close the achievement gap between our low-performing students and their more average achieving peers. My commitment to school-wide change and my understanding of how to apply the collective knowledge of my colleagues in order to improve teaching and learning in my course has prompted me to apply for this excellent opportunity”


“…I have seen the school grow by leaps and bounds into something quite brilliant. I want to see the program continue to grow and evolve with the needs of our students, families, and staff. A school like ours is desperately needed by so many across the state. It would truly be a huge disservice if we simply dug our heals in and continued to just “do what we’ve always done.” We must keep our machine well-oiled, maintained, and on the cutting edge and the only way to accomplish that is to make improvements along the way.”

As you can see we are making progress toward a culture of excellence where our staff is becoming engaged in true contribution. By encouraging risk and encouraging failing forward our staff is excited to take on new and challenging leadership assignments with the goal of carrying out our compelling purpose.


Jennings, K. R. & Stahl-Wert, J. (2016). The serving leader: five powerful actions to transform your team, business, and community. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.




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