The Gutsy Leader: Tales from the inside (158:365)



Yesterday I wrote a blog post about the Hechinger Report regarding Gutsy leaders. The purpose of the post was to shed some light to the aspiring administrators who are charged up about applying their learning and leading a school. It can be very difficult for them to not only find a job, but more importantly, find a match. See, once on the “inside” Gutsy leaders require a lot of work, administrative support, and freedom. So let’s take a peek into a fictional, Gutsy leader named Jennifer. The attributes of Jennifer were developed from Gutsy leaders throughout the globe through Social Media.


Jennifer is considered by most to be the most innovative administrator in her district. In a relatively short amount of time (she has been a high school principal for 5 years) she has presented at local, state, and national conferences. She has a large following of educators on Twitter, and is often consulted on topics such as innovation, technology, maker spaces, PBL, and professional development. She comes to work early, stays late. She documents (or brands) her school through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Her teachers have benefited from Jennifer’s leadership as they have access to the latest technology, but more importantly a support that transcends what they have ever experienced. Her students adore Jennifer. She knows the students quite well, and has a unique ability to always view them in a positive light. Parents are extremely supportive of Jennifer because they have seen their children grow into 21st century learners as a result of her leadership. They are proud to have her on board!


Yet, life in administration for Jennifer is difficult and lonely. People often think she is a self-promoter. They criticize her student’s assessment results, and feel they should be performing better. They say she has too much fun at school. In district Professional Development workshops other teachers are tired of hearing about Jennifer and her school. These teachers feel they are doing a great job as well, but never seem to be recognized. Other administrators roll their eyes when Jennifer talks about a new technology that can help them improve their communication with staff. Some of them think she is a “show off” and makes them look bad! The superintendent is often asked why she spends so much time at Jennifer’s school, and why does she allow Jennifer to have such professional freedom. Some community members feel that the superintendent plays favorites, and attribute Jennifer’s success to her support. Jennifer’s superintendent wished that more of her administrators would follow the district vision, and be more innovative in their schools and departments. Her superintendent, under Jennifer’s lead, has become “connected” and often seeks out ways to help her district become more 21st century.


Jennifer finds solace in her Professional Learning Network. She even finds it funny that people in her own district think she is so innovative, because she has a tough time keeping up with what other administrators are doing throughout the globe…. “If they only knew,” she often says to herself. Jennifer tries not to dwell on the way others view her because she believes in only being positive. She does her best to stay humble, and focused on the students…. She knows that she is blazing trails and won’t stop because she may have stepped on other’s toes, or upset the apple cart… Jennifer is a Gutsy leader, but it is not easy!

2 thoughts on “The Gutsy Leader: Tales from the inside (158:365)

  1. I remember four years ago, a principal of a much-heralded urban school touting success with his “21st century” model announced online to his PLN that the superintendent told all principals not to bring their laptops to administrator meetings. In supportive response, I replied “You’re going to bring your laptop anyways, right?” Never answered. It’s powerful how much gutsy leaders are forced to conform and give up their beliefs-based practices to become accepted in the existing system. I put in ten years in district administration, from Director of Technology to Assistant Superintendent, and I finally left because I was not willing to give up my aspirations and become part of the problem. I feel so much happier and so much more effective working for change from the outside. No one should have to give up their ideals to keep a job.

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