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Lead Like a Marine: Lessons for School Leaders

Lead Like a Marine: Lessons for School Leaders A US Marine in a school

How to Lead Like a Marine: Run Towards Challenge, Assemble Your Fireteam, and Win Your Next Battle in Education

This continues our series on how school leaders can apply lessons from popular leadership books. Here is a guide to how school leaders can apply lessons from Lead Like a Marine: Run Towards a Challenge, Assemble Your Fireteam, and Win Your Next Battle by John Warren and John Thompson.

The book is based on the author’s experience as U.S. Marines who led troops in combat in Iraq and later founded their own successful mortgage company. So dramatically different from my own! The book outlines the core values and principles of the Marine Corps that can be applied to any leadership situation, especially in education.

Warren and Thompson have outlined simple yet universal rules that helped them achieve success. It is clear that these also work for Headteachers. These rules include placing greater value on grit and potential rather than pedigree, forming small but resilient “fireteams” within larger groups, and cross-training team members so that any member can step up in a crisis. During their time in the US Marines Warren and Thompson removed barriers to innovation and excellence in organisations, unlike the corporate world which is too focused on maintaining the status quo, respecting status, and flattering ego. This aligns with some of the trends I analysed in my article on Horizon scanning in education.

Main Leadership Lessons from Lead Like a Marine

Some of the main lessons for school leaders from the book are:

  • Run towards a challenge: School leaders should embrace challenges as opportunities to grow and improve. They should not shy away from difficult decisions or situations, but rather face them with courage and confidence. They should also seek feedback and learn from their mistakes.
  • Assemble your fireteam: School leaders should build a strong team of trusted and competent people who share a common vision and mission. They should delegate tasks effectively, empower their team members, and foster a culture of collaboration and accountability. They should also recognise and reward their team’s achievements.
  • Win your next battle: School leaders should have a clear goal, vision and strategy for achieving it. They should communicate their expectations and priorities to their team, stakeholders, and community. They should also monitor progress, adjust plans as needed, and celebrate successes.

To apply these lessons in educational leadership practice, school leaders can follow these steps:

Identify your challenge

For school leader to run towards a challenge they need to embrace challenges as opportunities to grow and improve. They should not shy away from difficult decisions or situations, but rather face them with courage and confidence. They should also seek feedback and learn from their mistakes. For example, if the challenge is to implement a new AI technology initiative in the school, the school leader could:

  • Embrace the challenge by recognising the potential benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for enhancing teaching and learning, as well as the possible challenges and risks involved. They should also research and learn about the best practices and examples of successful technology integration in other schools. Use catalytic questioning to identify issues you hadn’t thought of.
  • Face the challenge by making a clear and informed decision about the adoption and implementation of the new technology, based on the needs and goals of the school, the available resources and support, and the feedback and input from the staff and students. They should also communicate their decision and rationale to the school community and address any concerns or questions.
  • Seek feedback by soliciting and listening to the opinions and experiences of the teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders who are using or affected by the new technology. They should also use data and evidence to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the new technology on student outcomes and teacher performance.
  • Learn from the challenge by reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the new technology initiative, identifying the lessons learned and the areas of improvement, and sharing their findings and recommendations with others. They should also acknowledge and celebrate their achievements and successes.

Formulate your fireteam

School leaders should recruit or select people with the skills, knowledge, attitude, and personality to contribute to the challenge. They should also establish roles and responsibilities for each team member, as well as clear lines of communication and authority. For example, if the challenge is to increase parent engagement in the school community, the school leader could:

  • Recruit or select people who have experience and expertise in working with parents, such as counsellors, social workers, parent liaisons, or teachers. They should also look for people who have a positive and proactive attitude, who can communicate effectively and respectfully with diverse families, and who can work well in a team.
  • Establish roles and responsibilities for each team member and manager, such as planning and organising events, conducting outreach and follow-up, facilitating workshops or meetings, collecting and analysing data, or reporting and evaluating outcomes. They should also clarify the expectations and goals for each role, as well as the resources and support available.
  • Establish clear lines of communication and authority by creating a communication plan that specifies the frequency, mode, and purpose of communication among the team members, as well as with the school leader, other staff, and parents. They should also define the decision-making process and the level of autonomy and accountability for each team member.

Execute your plan

By following these steps, the school leader can execute their plan effectively and efficiently, and achieve their desired outcome.

  • Implement the plan by providing professional development for teachers, adopting new curriculum and materials, and creating a supportive learning environment for students.
  • Monitor the results by using formative and summative assessments, data analysis tools, and classroom observations to track student progress and identify areas of improvement.
  • Measure the impact by comparing the results with the baseline data, the goals and objectives, and the best practices and benchmarks.
  • Collect feedback by surveying teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders about their satisfaction, challenges, and suggestions.
  • Make adjustments by revising the plan based on the feedback and the results, implementing new strategies or interventions, and providing additional support or resources as needed.

By following these steps, the school leader can execute their plan effectively and efficiently.

Celebrate your victory

School leaders should acknowledge their team’s efforts and accomplishments, express gratitude to those who helped them, and share their success with others. This will help gain buy-in for future projects.

I hope this guide on how to Lead Like a Marine helps you understand how school leaders can apply lessons from Lead Like a Marine: Run Towards a Challenge. If you want to learn more about the book buy it online. The book’s unique approach, combining real-life battle scenarios with business principles, makes it a compelling read for both military enthusiasts and business professionals. The authors expertise and firsthand experience shine through, as they distill their knowledge into practical advice that can be applied in any leadership role. “Lead Like a Marine” is a must-read for anyone seeking to enhance their leadership skills and achieve success in today’s competitive environment.

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