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Posted by on in Leadership


Are you a leader? Do you think of yourself as one? Are you a good one?

Or, do you just talk a good game?

Do you use beautiful words? Do you act on them? Do you stand up for what's right?

Or do you just talk a good game?

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Posted by on in Leadership


There I was, standing in the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center staring in awe at the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting while listening to the story of Pickett's Charge with my students. Hearing the story of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, with more than 51,000 casualties, immediately made my head spin. 

Events of this magnitude are hard for us to fathom. At one point, I turned to my students and we started to discuss how people were willing to take such a hard stand and fight and die for the freedom of others. Imagine seeing the oppression and abuse from slavery and finally deciding that this was not acceptable. What goes through the minds of people upon realizing that they may die to obtain liberty for a group of people that they do not identify with?

While there were people ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to change the lives of others, surely there were others who were not willing to get involved. What were these people doing during these times of struggles? Were they sitting home nestled in the safety of their carefully crafted reality ignoring what was unfolding around them? Did they lean toward one side or did their opinions reflect a more ambiguous mindset? What did their silence say about them?

Here we are in 2016, over 153 years removed from the Battle of Gettysburg and the looming end of the Civil War and slavery. We are still witnessing acts of violence and intolerance directed towards people who are minorities in our country. We have a president-elect who continues to stoke the flames of hatred and inequality by appointing a self-proclaimed racist as his chief strategist, who owns stock and has financial interests in a company trying to push our indigenous brothers and sisters off their land, and who continues to appoint individuals to positions of power that have histories of standing against what America stands for. 

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Posted by on in Leadership

I love football season!  Although I grow in my excitement for college football every year, there's nothing like feeling the energy at a high school on a Friday in the fall!

As a first year building administrator years ago, I was especially excited to interact with the football players in the hallways on a Football Friday!  There's nothing more classy than football players dressed up in button-down shirts and ties walking the hallways showing their pride for their school and team!

During one of the class changes, I was standing with other administrators and teachers talking about the upcoming game in the hallway.  As a group of well-dressed football players walked towards us, I saw one of our offensive guards, Steve, in the group.  I had Steve in math class the year before when I was a teacher.  While he struggled academically, his desire and determination to learn was matched equally to his stellar performance on the field.  As the group of players approached us, many of them were laughing and thanking the students and teachers wishing them good luck for tonight's game.  But, Steve was focused and carried a stone-cold look in his eyes similar to face I saw inside a helmet under the lights.

As he got closer to us, I remembered that I had just seen him in science class just yesterday while visiting classrooms.  I remembered it vividly because they were studying for a big test - which happened to be this very period.

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Posted by on in Leadership

Tonight I write from head and heart about your first day of school, a lot about family, patriotism, ethics and values.

Watching the Olympics is extraordinary, I'm sure you'll agree. How amazing to see the best in the world compete, note how they get along, or don't and when it gets really great, mess it up with terrible behavior, by any standards.

I started following the Lochte scandal on Twitter. The more I got into it, the worse I felt.

All leaders know the importance of following rules, meeting standards not only of grades and goals, but exhibiting the highest behavior of ethical morals and values. I think true Champions, sports athletes and learning athletes follow a code which goes something like:

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Posted by on in Leadership

Real leaders aren't aliens, and they don't surround themselves with them either.Neil Gupta - @drneilgupta.jpgIt was the same reaction as a song getting stuck in my head where I keep singing it throughout the day. When I was a kid, I distinctly remember watching an episode of the aliens in Sesame Street like this one.

What made me remember it to this day, are those aliens repeatedly saying "Yep, Yep, Yep" ad nauseam.  It stuck in my head, and I know I spent days walking around the house annoying my parents and brothers responding to everything they said with the same, distinctive response.

To this day, I still catch myself having the alien image and internal response when surrounded by others who always agree with the leader on everything.  I can't stand it when I am encountered by mindless, agreeing aliens!  No matter what is being said, followers line up responding with, "Yep, Yep Yep".

They agree with whatever the leader says...no matter what.  All the time.  But, at the same time, I am equally as frustrated when leaders intimidate or combat responses adversarially, only to coerce others to agree or else suffer the consequences.  Even more frustrating than that, I hate it when I walk away from a meeting reflecting on my own alien response buckling under the pressure or pleasure of the leader, instead of focusing on the goal or issue by providing feedback or an idea I think may be better.

The problem is that the leader may not be aware they are surrounding themselves with aliens, but they need to expose them right away.  A litmus test in determining whether you are surrounded by aliens is reflecting on whether you have been challenged or had push back on ideas recently.   Being challenged, in a professional manner, is healthy.  

Leaders should overtly develop and cultivate a healthy "Team Dissonance", in which members share their ideas without repercussions.  Team Dissonance is a fundamental belief in productive teams which understand the collective genius of the room. 

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