Welcome back and congratulations on a new school year! I hope your summer had the right mix of professional learning, planning, and relaxation. While the summer months are a busy time for us at the NYC Leadership Academy, as we support school and system leaders with their learning and planning, I managed to carve out some time to read and reflect with my staff book group. We read (and in some cases re-read) Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute and I wanted to share some of our take-aways with you.
The messages in this book are simple yet profound: To be effective leaders, we must see the humanity in every person. We need to reflect on how we at times subconsciously put down others in order to justify and cover up our own lack of willingness to act and work harder and, really, to make ourselves feel better. This book continues to reinforce the message that by becoming more aware of how our interpersonal interactions impact others—whether in our personal lives or in our leadership roles — we can hold ourselves accountable and free ourselves to have more authentic and meaningful interactions and relationships.
When adults consider how challenges in the school are within their own power to change and are not the fault of students, parents and the community, real movement toward dismantling inequities can begin. My 8th grade teacher, Mr. Lovelace, did that for me – rather than take as fact other teachers’ complaints about my “troublemaking” ways, he sought to truly see me and all my potential and focused on how he could support me.
While he could have easily given up on me, he built a strong relationship with me and went above and beyond in his teaching to engage me with interesting writing opportunities. He unequivocally changed my life.
As we all begin a new school year, I challenge teachers, school leaders, and district leaders to join me in understanding the self-deception we are all, as humans, guilty of. Read the book, discuss it with colleagues, read it again. Acts of self-deception are especially dangerous when they impact the behaviors of leaders because of the power we hold. As leaders, we must continuously examine how our behavior impacts those around us.
Finally, as the authors encourage in the book, we urge you to see the whole person in front of you, whether a child or an adult, and to honor their humanity. Rather than seeing each adult as an object that is there simply to help forward your collective mission, focus on really seeing and deeply engaging each individual. Be willing to dig deeper and give more of yourself. The changes you make will be liberating for yourself and your team.
Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.
President & CEO
Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is President & CEO of The Leadership Academy. Nancy joined The Leadership Academy in 2014 and has served as National Leadership Designer and Facilitator, Vice President of District Leadership, and Chief Strategy Officer. She was named President & CEO in July 2018 and continues to serve as an executive leadership coach and facilitator for school systems across the country. She was a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, and in February 2020 was named among the 100 most powerful education leaders in New York by City & State New York. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker for local and national education organizations and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership and equity for national publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, and Hechinger Report. Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrator’s Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. Prior to her tenure with The Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification. Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She served on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools for more than a decade. She is an instructor at NYU and frequently teaches at the Harvard Principals’ Center institutes for School Turnaround Leaders, Urban School Leaders, and Race, Equity, Access, and Leadership. Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at The Hunt Institute, Brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team. Find Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.