Change Leader: Learning to Do What Matters the Most
by Michael Fullan (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011)
Reviewed by David Guertin and Jenna Koskowski
Michael Fullan is a worldwide authority on educational reform and change leadership. He has written several books including Leading in a Culture of Change, The Six Secrets of Change, and Cultures Built to Last. In this book, Fullan lays out a seven-part framework to guide the leader in the process of leading change through deliberative practice and constant reflection. Seven key insights are also provided for leaders to use to create successful change in their situations. Several case examples and research from other well-known change authors and psychologists help to illustrate his points within the book.
# 1 Practice Drives Theory: Doing is the Crucible of Change
Key Insight: “The effective change leader actively participates as a learner in helping the organization improve.”
In this chapter, Fullan discusses why we must ground learning in practice. He discusses “deliberative doing” in which leaders first examine good practice, then try out new ideas, assess and draw conclusions from what is learned, and finally, expand on what the leader learned so it will impact to a greater extent.
# 2 Be Resolute: Act with Purpose and Empathy
Key Insight: “Effective change leaders combine resolute moral purpose with impressive empathy.”
Two takeaways from this chapter are “(1) when you are on a crucial mission, stay the course against all odds; and (2) be impressively empathetic when it comes to opposition in the early stages” (page 30). Fullan cites Heath’s work about how sometimes what appears to be a person problem is often a situation problem, as well as Dweck’s work about a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. He makes the argument that leaders need to be able to change the situation in order for behavior to change, and all leaders must possess a growth mindset or else change is impossible.
# 3 Motivate the Masses: Experience is Believing
Key Insight: “Realized effectiveness is what motivates people to do more.”
Fullan talks about the importance of leaders helping people accomplish things they have never tried before to get the full buy-in to change initiatives. Daniel Pink’s work on intrinsic motivation is cited including building a strong sense of purpose, increasing capacity, allowing for autonomy, and building collective camaraderie. Motion Leadership is also introduced in this chapter, with nine insights outlined and a rating rubric to help change leaders assess their own effectiveness.
# 4 Collaborate to Compete: Multiply Capacity and Win
Key Insight: “Collaborative competition is the yin and yang of successful change. Collaborate and compete.”
Five elements of a collaborative culture are established in this chapter: set a small number of core goals, form a guiding coalition, aim for collective capacity, work on individual capacity, and reap the benefits of collaborative competition. Other things mentioned in this chapter are ways to “unleash greatness”, change concepts championed by the DuFour’s, and an explanation of the decline of the United States educational system compared with global rankings.
# 5 Learn Confidently: Change Requires Confidence (True Confidence Requires Humility)
Key Insight: “Change leaders are more confident than the situation warrants but more humble than they look.”
In this chapter, Fullan highlights things a leader must do in combination. He says to “Use Your Brain;” always examine your practice, know actual change is more likely to occur if you are engaged, be deliberate about your practice, and never stop learning. He also emphasizes the growth mindset, which is a repeated concept in this book. Another key concept in this chapter is to maintain a high level of confidence. “Effective leaders are smart enough to act like they are in charge but wise enough not to let their power go to their heads or take themselves too seriously” (page 121).
# 6 Know Your Impact: Drowning in Data, Thirsty for Knowledge
Key Insight: “Statistics are a wonderful servant and an appalling master.”
Data can be a wonderful tool, but it can also overwhelm, misguide or paralyze educators who are inundated with too much. In this chapter, Fullan gives seven cures that discuss having a growth mindset, having a climate that is open and transparent, and having a few priorities. He also discusses the need for leaders to get to know themselves intimately, use a humble checklist, and celebrate successes after they happen.
# 7 Sustain Simplexity: Just Right Simple
Key Insight: “Simplexity is salvation for an intricate world.”
For the last chapter, Fullan states that the framework provided in this book is simple. What is complex is becoming good at all of them simultaneously. In this last chapter, Fullan offers invaluable advice to beginning change leaders including being deliberate and linking the seven key insights into one’s practice.