Who Should Lead the Change Process?

Leading transformational change is a complex responsibility that requires leaders who are masters of the art and science of transformational change. This kind of leadership also cannot be situated at the top of a school system—it must be distributed throughout a school system and found in the hearts and souls of anyone willing and able to stand up and lead.

Mastery of transformational change is a level of performance marked by a sophisticated and unwavering level of knowledge (the science of transformation) and skill (the art of transformation). A master truly knows something by heart. He or she has learned specific knowledge and has worked diligently to convert that knowledge into skills. A master can also teach his or her skills to others, lead them in applying those skills, and be innovative in using those skills.

Since school district transformation is not a goal or destination, but rather a journey—a never-ending journey—masters of transformation must also be skilled navigators of rapid, complex change (Duffy, 2004). Skilled navigators of transformational change have a metaphorical map (knowledge of core concepts and principles of whole-system transformation) and compass (a specially designed methodology to transform their systems) to guide them on the journey; and they possess the treasured abilities to adapt quickly to unexpected “ground-level truths” while simultaneously tolerating the ambiguity that is created when systems are transforming into something significantly different than what they are.

Mastery of transformation is not, and should not be, the domain of a few. It can and must be achieved by anyone in a school system willing to lead the journey. Mastering transformation begins with mastery of awareness—an awareness of a school system’s crippling beliefs, awareness of its dysfunctional norms, and an awareness of exciting technologically feasible and operationally viable opportunities that can be seized by engaging in transformational change. Mastery of transformation continues with mastery of deliberate intent, which results in an ideal-seeking (Ackoff, 1979, 2001) school system. And, mastery of transformation is turbocharged by mastery of methodology, which results in change leaders learning and applying a special methodology for navigating a transformation journey.

A longer article about leading transformational change is found at Volume 12, Number 2 of The F. M. Duffy Reports.(610 KB PDF)