Considerations on “How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership”

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As I read the book How we Lead matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership, I found myself deeply considering the many challenges of educational leadership, as well as what being a leader to others truly means. Several specific sections of the book made me view my role as a leader more critically: “When I Grow Up”, “Humility”, “Looking Up”, and “Tipping Point”. Each of these sections touched me in a particular way and reminded me that a leader is defined by actions as well as reactions, and this applies to all aspects of human life, not just to a career. The book inclined me to discover the hidden leadership in everyday life, consider new facets of leadership, and inspired me to contemplate new leadership development resources for my future career.

It is easy to forget that leadership opportunities exist everywhere, not just when you are in a convenient position to execute commands to others. In the section of the book “When I Grow Up”, I realized that it is easy to lose track of why we make the career and life decisions that we do. It can be difficult to admit that our decisions are often rooted in wanting to impact others and society. As Nelson (2004) discussed, “…we all want to make a difference to someone, in some way” (p. 21), and this is especially true in education. According to Law, Yuen, and Fox (2011), in a modern, progressive school, the educational staff should engage an atmosphere of “distributed leadership” within a more laterally-aligned and decentralized power structure (p. 198). This amorphous relationship of leadership that can be utilized will underscore not only the collective desire of the staff to positively impact students but also how it cannot be accomplished by a single person alone.

In the sections “Humility” and “Looking Up”, I felt the burden of responsibility that we all own in society, in which the older generations, especially educators, profoundly influence future generations. In “Looking Up”, Nelson (2004) focused on the importance of “crowning” people in society in order to provide an example of what is valued in culture, and how this should be done personally and not according to the standards of larger society (p. 91). In stressing the personal choice of who we choose to value and thus the example we set to others, I was reminded of doing the same in the local educational setting. According to Law et al. (2011), sustainability is a new standard to which all education environments should be striving, which refers to empowering the health of all schools, not enabling one by disabling another (p. 198, 213). As educators build up their schools, staff, and students, it is critical that it not be accomplished at the expense of other educational environments. And, at the end of the day, it is a team effort that achieves, even if the spotlight is on a single educator.

I was the most greatly affected by the section “Tipping Point”, which rather brutally reminded me of the reality of “one step forward, two steps back” (Nelson, 2004, p. 111). In education, this is especially true. While progressive policies occasionally appear in educational legislature, often, other reforms that perpetuate negative impacts throughout districts and schools can prevail (Law et al., 2011, p. 213). I read this section with an ambivalent feeling about the future of education in the U.S. In regards to how far we are from future-focused leadership, it eminded that we still have a long way to go to keep promoting education as a primary and foundational element of American life.

As I proceed through my education, I am going to focus on how a leader in contemporary education must be willing to diffuse leadership among everyone, in order to make for a more sustainable, balanced environment. I will also think critically about who and what I demonstrate to others as a positive example and how much my actions towards others influence how students will value aspects of society and education. Additionally, I will strive to keep moving forward despite educational setbacks and disappointments and remember that the best is yet to come.


Law, N., Yuen, A., & Fox, R. (2011). Changing leadership roles in changing times. Educational innovations beyond technology nurturing leadership and establishing learning organizations, 195-215. New York: Springer.

Nelson, M. C., & Cundy, D. (2008). How we lead matters reflections on a life of leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.