Shatter the Polite, Fearful Silence: #CUERockStar Day One Stirrings

petra luhrsen

Leadership is an act of making – and helping (coaxing) things take root. Image via Petra Luhrsen

Participating in the first-ever CUE Rock Star camp dedicated to school administrators was a special learning experience for me. I spent a lot of time preparing the slide deck and companion guide for my Day One session, however this exercise felt somewhat artificial to me. I have plenty to talk about, but the magic of Rock Star is enabling attendees to think, connect and CREATE. Instead of adopting the stance of a presenter, my hope was to be more of a provocateur, an instigator. Everyone in attendance chose to be there; I did not need to provide them with any motivation to lead, rather provide a space in which they (individually, collectively) could explore who they are as leaders – better said, a space in which we could explore that. The three posts I will dedicate to the camp experience (one for each day) aim to not only archive the unique material created by attendees but also serve as a reflection on my own learning.

Cue post 1

#NapkinDoodle – trying to get my thoughts straight for the 3-day continuum

My own materials grew immeasurably richer over the course of the three days – the wisdom and knowledge of the people that chose to attend my sessions gave me the chance to add/delete right there in real time! I would offer this as a framework for all presenters/facilitators – space, time and opportunity for the people in attendance to contribute to the material shared. The fabric woven by the different individuals in the room (or, as was often the case over the three days at the spectacular Skywalker Ranch – outdoors) became a much more interesting and enriching experience. The slides are there for the taking at any time – in their highest form, as a provocation for others to use as a beginning point in their own organizations.

My two overarching themes for the three days:

  • What are approaches, attitudes and tangible activities leaders can implement/orchestrate to take their staff culture from quiet/reserved/risk-averse/blaming to loud/open/honest/daring/self-reflective?
  • How are we harnessing the power of images to tell our own story (leading with openness, vulnerability) and narrate/message what our organization’s values are?


If my RockStar sessions were a pop-up restaurant, I’d write up the Daily Specials like this.

Leaders must be anthropologists – look, listen and withhold judgment

Read this terrific post via Jason Markey as a staff. Consider how your school/organization can observe itself from within while also introducing people from outside (consider outside of your field of work as well) to watch, record, and share what they see and hear.

Leaders look in the mirror and examine their own attitudes/behaviors FIRST

The leader’s demeanor sets a tone that everyone can FEEL before they can name it. Before you start pointing the finger at teachers’ unwillingness to change, consider that the vibes YOU send off might have a dampening effect. When people share a complaint with you, do you passively absorb/discard or do you see it as an opportunity to help them take meaningful action on something they care about?

Leaders create a safe space for people to share their ideas, beliefs, questions, concerns

Public agreements establish a framework by which people in an organization relate to each other through a shared set of values/commitments instead of defaulting to private, individual beliefs. If you still hear yourself complaining about toxic staff meetings, then consider that a group of humans doesn’t just automatically self-organize into harmonious balance; one reason you exist as a leader is to nourish and sustain this harmony through pedagogy. This is how we exert leadership as a practice (and build influence) rather than see ourselves as heirs of a position (and unknowingly propagate archaic hierarchies).

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Leaders SHOW who they are (and what they believe) so that the entire organization understands their sense of purpose and what drives them

We walked around the Skywalker Ranch grounds with our smart phones and used the Phonto app to overlay the images with text. What is your leadership “throw down?” If you had seven(ish) words to pair with ONE image, how would you reveal your intentions and beliefs as a leader? Images not only help us tell a story – they help others see who WE are and how we represent ourselves.

anne shafer salinas  Image-1 IMG_3001 IMG_4129 james h john calandro John Pizzo Lee aura Lori Ruegsegger Maryanne Friend  pam hernandez Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 12.49.23 PM sebastian bull sherry dessert-villaneda  terry conde unnamed virginia garza-nunez

catina haugen

Catina Haugen

stephanie omste

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