Distributed Leadership in the Decision-Making Process


Years ago, as a principal, I was really excited about the possibility of implementing a new program in our school.  I don’t want to say which one, but I had read a lot about it, and the main tenets of the program were and are something that I really believe in still to this day.

I had contacted a couple of schools that had implemented this program, and they couldn’t be more complimentary of what it had done for their schools.  I was sold and really believed this would be the right thing for our school moving forward.  

Instead of making this decision on my own, I presented it to my staff and asked if anyone would be interested in joining me to visit a school to see the impact this program could have on the school.  Several staff members volunteered, and we decided to go for a school visit.

As we toured the school, we saw so many positives of the program on the school culture. It had really worked for them.  But there were also some things that we didn’t like.  And when I say this, I don’t mean it was wrong for their school, but as we talked, we didn’t think the program, implemented the same way, would work for our school.

After a ton of conversations with the staff that attended and a lot of thoughtful deliberation, we decided this was not the time for our school to implement it. This was something a couple of months earlier I KNEW would be the perfect fit for our school, but I also knew it was not my decision to make alone.  I brought staff there to help me decide, not to reinforce a decision that I had already made without their consultation.

The program never went forward after this conversation.

Now there were tenets of the program that we thought were useful,  and we made a plan to embed some of these things into our school plan in a way that made sense for our community. But we still wanted to do it in a way that honored the uniqueness of each classroom and learner in our school.  

Why am I sharing this? 

Because it is important to share strategies on how we get others to embrace new ideas, but some of those strategies, if we are really listening, will also teach us that a decision is not right for our community. It could be in the present moment, or it could be in the future.  The process of making a decision together as a community is sometimes more important than the actual decision made.

If I want input and guidance from my staff, I am looking for that input to make the right decision for our community, not to reinforce my decision for our school.  Successful leadership can identify times we need to move forward while also acknowledging times we need to take a step back. 

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