“Life is all about getting A’s. Not some stupid normal distribution curve.”
– Ken Blanchard, author of over 50 books on leadership
Ken Blanchard has studied, and written books on, servant leadership. Servant leadership consists of two elements: The visionary role, which is the leadership element of servant leadership; and the implementation role, which is the servant element of servant leadership.
According to Blanchard, the visionary aspect of servant leadership establishes a compelling vision that includes the purpose, the path forward, and the values that will guide the journey. It is, as Blanchard explains, the sense of direction.
Once the vision is clear, the leaders role shifts into that of servant, in which the leader does all they can to help their team members accomplish goals, solve problems, and live according to the vision.
The best educators are servant leaders. As leaders, they set the vision in the classroom. What is the purpose of learning this content? How will we learn it? And what experiences and connections will guide us along the way? It’s the lesson design. The framework build that connects standards in meaningful ways. The pedagogical conversations around thinking and learning and skills that matter most.
Once that vision is established, the servant aspect carries out the implementation of those goals. What prior knowledge and skills do students need to learn this content? How will I assess if they have that knowledge/skill? What skills do students need to use this knowledge in a real world context? What experiences must I provide to create engaging and relevant connections? How will I ensure that each student gets what s/he needs to find success?
No where in Blanchard’s servant leadership description does it include an element to ensure that only some employees are successful. Nowhere in the corporate HR manual does it say 30% of employees must be fired every year. So why is there a normal distribution curve in education? Why do we assume it’s okay that not every student achieves personal success? And why do we build assessments that are meant to trick students, or prove they don’t know it all? Ken Blanchard calls out the “stupid normal distribution curve” and he’s right.
As a professor, Blanchard knows that it is his job to do all he can to ensure every student earns ‘A’ grades. “Don’t mark my paper” he and his friend Garry Ridge (WD-40 CEO) say. “Help me get an A.” That’s a true servant leader. That’s the type of leader I like to work for, and that’s the type of educator I want educating my children.