TLs, Leadership and Moral Purpose

One of our prescribed reading texts for ETL504 (Teacher librarians as leaders) is Michael Fullan’s Leading in a Culture of Change — and what a pleasure it is to read this ‘personal action guide and workbook’. He is insightful in every direction. This book is a powerful tool.

The second chapter is about moral purpose, firstly of the individual (in our case, the TL) and secondly of the organization (in our case, the library and the school).

One of the points that stuck with me in this chapter is what Sober and Wilson (as cited in Fullan, 2004, p.13) called ‘motivational pluralism’. This is the notion that ‘all effective people are driven by self-centered as well as unselfish motives’ (p.13). And as Fullan says, “It’s OK.”

Could this be one of the reasons TLs do not speak out for themselves and their profession more often? Are we not OK with the combination of motives? Are we afraid people will judge us as speaking from the self-centred motive instead of the altruistic one? I think there may be something there. I’ve certainly seen that as truth for teachers. It is difficult to ask for release time when people/media and even sometimes administration are so quick to misconstrue it as wanting to be paid for time without the kids.

I was also struck with the idea of leaders helping to support others’ sense of moral purpose.

For me leadership is about creating a sense of purpose and direction. … [There is a] need to enthuse staff and encourage a belief in the difference their organisation is making … We can do a lot by making heroes of the people who deliver. It’s important to make people feel part of a success story. That what they want to be (Sir Michael Bichard as cited in Fullan, 2004, p. 17).

While that quote might come across as a little patronising, it is recognising others efforts to help better things that’s important. We often are so busy trying to change, improve and move forward that we forget we are not alone. Recognition is so simple and yet so powerful.

So now on to some of the reflective questions at the end of the chapter.

Q. What is your moral purpose in your work?

A. Wondering and learning make us better people. Information is a step towards knowledge which is a stepping stone to wisdom. Information is power. It is the power to choose, the power to make better decisions, the power for personal growth. I am passionate about other peoples’ rights to wonder and learn.

Q. How would you explain this to your friends, customers or clients, and community?

A. Funny. It never occurred to me to explain this, was I hoping it would just show by my actions? Well, I guess I would explain it just as I have above and continue to convey it by my actions. Perhaps it needs to be part of my personal mission statement too.

Q. How do you think other perceive you in terms of moral purpose? Does this differ in your private life and your work life? If so, how?

A. Being perceived as having high moral purpose is more important to me than I would have guessed upon examination of this topic. I have very high expectations of myself and see this profession as one of the most important jobs. Dare I say it is almost a calling — but I don’t want people to think I’m a zealot .

I don’t think it differs in my private life. My kids think I’m an annoying librarian when I get home too. =)

Q. How well do you think you measure up as a leader in terms of moral purpose?

A. Getting stronger everyday. Getting better at communicating this.

I am always so glad of books that include these pauses for reflection. And I’m becoming more dependent on my blog as a repository for these. With this course of study, I feel like I read til my head is full and I can then come here, download my thoughts and am ready to fill ‘er up again. =)

flickr photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkpooch/894503710/

Fullan, M., & Ballew, A. (2004). Moral Purpose. In Leading in a culture of change: Personal action guide and workbook (pp. 11-33). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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