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Opinion
Education Opinion

Shifting Superintendents Stuck in Compliance World

By Tom Vander Ark — November 11, 2013 2 min read

Lyle Kirtman has been coaching leaders to better performance for 30 years. His Future Management Systems works with
750 organizations including about 300 school districts. Lyle coaches about 100 state and district superintendents and is frequently called upon to resolves
conflicts and consult with school boards.

Kirtman believes the recent mantra that principals just need to be instructional leaders is too narrow, “People that are just focused on instruction are
poor performers--they lose their job. Effective leaders need broader skills.”

“Testing is important for data but doesn’t provide direction,” said Kirtman, “Leaders need to think, work, and partner with people.”

His team has looked at enough leadership profiles that they can predict problems. Most frequently, his coaching focuses on getting leaders out of
compliance mode--often half of how school administrators spend their time. Kirtman helps leaders “get away from being overwhelmed and focus on reallocating
resources and building partnerships.”

Kirtman’s book,

Leadership and Teams: The Missing Piece of the Educational Reform Puzzle

, published this year by Pearson, reflects two years of research into workplace personalities. It outlines 7 leadership competencies that Michael Fullan
and Robert Marzano both endorse. His Critical Leadership Competencies are summarized below:



  1. Challenging the status quo:
    delegate compliance tasks, challenges common practices and traditions, takes risk, and look for innovations to get results.

  2. Building trust through clear communications and expectations:
    direct and honest, confirms understanding, follows through, and is comfortable dealing with conflict.

  3. Creates a commonly owned plan for success:
    takes input, ensures buy in, set clear goals, monitors implementation, and makes adjustments.

  4. Focuses on team over self:
    hires the best people for the team, commits to ongoing development, seeks feedback, and empowers staff.

  5. Has a sense of urgency for change and sustainable results in improving student achievement:
    able to move initiatives ahead quickly, can be decisive, builds strategies to ensure sustainability, and is able to manage change effectively.

  6. Commitment to continuous improvement for self and organization:
    sense of curiosity for new approaches, Willingness to change practices, listens to all team members; takes responsibility; and has strong
    self-management skills.

  7. Builds external networks and partnership:
    sees broad role as a leaders, values external networks, strong ability to build partnerships, uses technology to manage a network of resources.

Lyle is used to coaching “A” students; he often has to convince them that “It’s ok to get a “C” in compliance.” He helps them move things off their plate
and start building relationships and focus on results.

In addition to coaching, Kirtman’s competencies are well suited for evaluation, development of growth plans, and professional development (more on that in
an upcoming blog).

Can the system scale? Kirtman thinks the book and and his partnership with Pearson are key to reaching a wider audience--and making an impact at scale.

Pearson is Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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