Byron's Babbles

Our String History Timeline of Leadership

chase field

Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona

I spent the past four days in Phoenix, Arizona with three of our teacher leaders working on a task force project for our school. My next post will have more about this, but there was a conversation last night during the Arizona Diamondbacks game that prompted this post. Our teacher leaders and I had the distinct honor of going to the Diamondbacks vs. Kansas City Royals game last night. We had awesome seats right behind home plate. By the way, the Diamondbacks won the game. Before the game we went to Alice Cooperstown – not really a part of the post, but I believe it was really cool to have been there! Everyone needs to go there at least once in their life.


Alice Cooperstown in Phoenix, Arizona

One of our teacher leaders, Jill Landers’, brother David Meek, who lives in Phoenix, was able to go to the game with us. David is an incredible guy and I consider myself privileged to have gotten to know him and have the chance to visit during the game. We talked, Arizona history, Barry Goldwater running for President, politics, favorite books, favorite authors (mine is David McCullough), the Wright Brothers, and the fact that Thomas Edison had a workshop in Indiana. In fact, Thomas Edison’s first invention happened in Indianapolis, Indiana. Who knew? Click here to read about Thomas Edison’s connection to Indianapolis, Indiana.

timelineAnyway, at one point David pointed up at the clock that is above the Jumbotron at Chase Field and said, “Imagine if there was a string stretching from us to that clock. Then imagine that the string is the timeline from the beginning of human existence. Now, recognize we are living in the last two inches of that timeline. Think about all the things we have seen invented and happen in that last two inches.” Wow, this was some pretty powerful imagery! We then reflected that you wouldn’t have to go much more than another inch to see the invention of the airplane. On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Three more flights were made that day with Orville’s brother, Wilbur, piloting the record flight lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet. Wilbur had flown a glider in earlier tests Kitty Hawk, Oct. 10, 1902.

The brothers began their experimentation in flight in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They selected the beach at Kitty Hawk as their proving ground because of the constant wind that added lift to their craft. In 1902 they came to the beach with their glider and made more than 700 successful flights. I am still in awe of what these two men created and the leadership grit it took to successfully invent the design of the flying machine. Much of that design is still being used on the plane I am comfortably sitting in right now as I fly home from Arizona.


We Made It On The JumboTron

This caused a great deal of deep thought as we sat and discussed the past. Jill caught her brother and I in deep thought looking up at the clock and imagining the string and the last two inches we are occupying. In fact, Jill tweeted a picture of us to the Arizona Diamondbacks and it made it on the Jumbotron and has received several favorites and retweets. Jill and I had actually spoke earlier in the week about how things we were doing at our school, work we are doing in relation to the new Every Student Succeeds Act and other legislation in our state are historic. It is exciting to be working with talented teacher leaders, like Jill, who want to build their circle of influence and want to be significant. I want so bad for my legacy to be helping them to develop their leadership capacity and be significant to affect the future string timeline.

tweetAs I write this post I am thinking about all of the great leaders who have gone before us, just in my lifetime. Much of the news in the United States in the year I was born (1963) was dominated by the actions of civil rights activists and those who opposed them. Our role in Vietnam was being defined, along with the costs of that involvement. It was the year the Beatles began their leadership role in beginning the rock and roll movement, and the year President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin and delivered a famous speech. Push-button telephones were introduced, 1st class postage cost 5 cents, and the population of the world was 3.2 billion, less than half of what it is now. The final months of the year I was born, 1963, were punctuated by one of the most tragic events in American history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Here are a few other events that took place in that special year that I began my tight walk journey on that string David Meek and I were imagining stretching from our seats behind home plate to the clock above the Jumbotron at Chase Field:

Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. waved to supporters on the Mall in Washington, DC during the “March on Washington,” on August 28, 1963. King delivered his “I have a dream…” speech and said the march was “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of the United States.” He was a great leadership example to us all.

Astronaut Gordon Cooper took off in a Mercury Atlas 9 rocket from Launch Pad 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 5, 1963. This was the final manned space mission of the U.S. Mercury program; the precursor to the Apollo program. Cooper successfully completed 22 Earth orbits before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Then, on July 20th, 1969, history was made when men walked on the Moon for the very first time. The result of almost a decade’s worth of preparation, billions of dollars of investment, strenuous technical development and endless training, the Moon Landing of the Apollo program was the high point of the Space Age and, arguably, one of the single greatest accomplishment ever made. Because they were the first men to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin are forever written in history.
Women were playing an important leadership role the year I was born, as 26-year-old Valentina Tereshkova, became the first woman to travel in space, on Vostok 6, on June 16, 1963

Here is a list of a few things invented just in the decade in which I was born:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Permanent-press fabric
  • Astroturf
  • Soft contact lenses
  • NutraSweet
  • Compact Disk
  • Kevlar
  • Electronic fuel injection
  • First handheld calculator
  • Computer mouse
  • RAM (Random Access Memory)
  • Arpanet (first internet)
  • Artificial Heart
  • ATM machine
  • Bar-Code scanner

To look at more great inventions from your 0wn decade of birth, click here.

The metaphor of the timeline string stretched from our seats to the clock at the baseball game also caused me to reflect on how leadership styles have evolved over time, with a prominent shift from the autocratic, command and control leadership of the 20th Century to a more flattened and distributive style of collaborative leadership. I believe the definition of effective leadership has changed to one that includes the learning organization and the leader being a servant. These changes to leadership styles can be attributed to a combination of issues including a shift in people’s attitudes as well as advances in technology. There is an imperative for leaders of organizations, to plan ahead and adapt to the movement of evolving trends to ensure the best outcomes for their organizations. The move has shifted from authoritarian leaders who believe in top-down management, strict rules and exact orders, to a progression to what Peter Drucker called the knowledge society, with more individualized thinking and individual ownership over tasks. It was here that the participative and collaborative leadership styles of the learning organization settled in, and this style is now one of the most common leadership styles in contemporary society.

This flattened hierarchy also allows for teacher leaders to thrive and improve our schools and education system. It is with this philosophy that I brought our teacher leaders to Arizona. The task force was able to get advice from another school. We learned best practices and failures from our counterparts. This in turn provided a hyper-personalized professional development opportunity for our teachers as well. There is no workshop that could have provided the growth our teachers experience from the work they did these past four days. My hope and dream is that someday in the future others will be sitting in Chase Field, or some other Field of Dreams, and be discussing the string timeline stretched from their seats to some point like the clock on the wall. My hope and dream is that their discussion will include the example we were setting of hyper-personalized development of teacher leaders where everyone in the organization is able to provide leadership from where they are. Leadership should happen anywhere, by anyone, and at anytime it is needed.

The style of leadership I practice is where our team is central to the decision making process, and not the leader alone. Leaders need to feel at ease in regards to drawing on the knowledge of experienced followers. Today’s leaders speak in terms of “open” dialogue, “discourse,” and “collaboration,” and indeed if you ask the great leaders of today they will invariably point to their close collaborators and mentors as being part of the leadership.

What do you want your legacy to be on the string timeline of your leadership journey?


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