Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Strategic Leadership: Developing a Mission and Vision

Developing a mission and vision begins with strategic leadership.  A truly shared mission and vision is co-created by community stakeholders.  If not, these documents will have little impact.  A superintendent should not impose personal philosophies on a community, but rather develop, and then trust, a process to identify common causes, beliefs, interests, goals, and aspirations (PLC, Richard DuFour).   That is not to say the school leader turns the process over to others, instead the superintendent must work to organize the meeting spaces, provide relevant background information, frame discussion points, and synthesize the data collected into a coherent collective message. It is a prominent, crucial role in which the district administrator should model the characteristics of a servant leader.  Servant leaders are not focused on the advancement of their own personal agendas, instead acting as a steward for the local educational community (Greenleaf).

Analysis of Kettle Moraine's Transformation TaskforceHudson School District’s HSD 2025, DeForest’s Future Search 2.0, and Cashton’s Cashton 2024 provide a strong blueprint for other districts to follow. However, the actions and format should be unique to the character, demographics, and climate of the district.

The revision of a mission statement must start with analysis of current educational trends and a "state of the district" review.  If you do not provide stakeholders with adequate information it limits their ability to make informed decisions.  Once relevant background is explored, strategic leaders set clear goals for the the process. The goals that I would set would look similar to the framework developed by Deforest.  1.) Provide an opportunity for citizens to participate in future planning.  2.) Identify the issues and trends that shape our community.  3.) Explore the knowledge, skills, and attributes that will be necessary to be a responsible citizen, have a good quality of life, and be successful in the future.  4.) Identify ways that our district can be effective in creating a learning environment that will enable our children to thrive in the future (DeForest).

Successful leaders create an environment in which all voices have an opportunity to participate.  To accomplish this task I would mimic the work completed by Cashton 2024.  To elicit participation in community engagement sessions, I would ask each board member to nominate one community member to be part of the Vision Element Study Team (VEST).  I would also implement a means for other interested citizens to participate on the team.  VEST team members would facilitate community engagement sessions and then meet to synthesize the feedback provided in these sessions. Web-based resources such as Wordle and Themseekr are helpful tools that expedite the analysis process.  Finally I would invite VEST team members to a board meeting to present their findings.  While playing an important role throughout the process, I would avoid the perception that I am dictating the outcomes of the process. However, the VEST team will need guidance in framing the mission and vision of the district that aligns to the the data collected.

Once the vision is established and approved the real work begins.  To honor the process leaders must "walk the walk".  Decisions must be made not out of personal interest, teacher preference, or to ease political agendas.  Resources, both human and fiscal, should be allocated in a manner the supports the achievement of the district vision. Aligned goals and specific action plans have to be implemented at the district, school, and classroom levels.  Goals must assessed for completion on a yearly basis.  While this level of accountability may be stressful, if the mission and vision of the district you work for aligns to your personal professional goals, the result is a fulfilling and valued career.


  1. "Successful leaders create an environment which all voices have an opportunity to participate." These words are certainly powerful when implemented. I have been a part of groups where this was true and also those in which it wasn't. There was clear evidence of long-term, sustained forward movement, value, and ownership demonstrated when "all" was the effort. This creation of environment must come from leadership and must be a core value or philosophy. Stakeholders quickly see through "lip-service" if not heartfelt and the damages are greater than if honesty is prevalent and central to the actions.
    The process of involvement, starting with each board member is both honoring of your board and creates a nice dichotomy of individuals. Last spring, a building referendum was narrowly defeated (28 votes) in our district and if the prescribe process had been followed and if individuals had an opportunity to express their voice, I believe the results could have been altered.
    It is evident that the leadership in your district, provided by the board and administrative team is visionary and that your district "walks the walk."

  2. I enjoyed reading your plan to create a vision David. You touched on some ideas that I agree with wholeheartedly. Servant leaders need to understand that the development of a vision is a collective process and that all voices need to be heard. Creating an atmosphere where all stakeholders feel comfortable and valued is so important to overall success. It can be very difficult I've found for leaders to not impose their own personal philosophies when leading groups to decisions. This inability to remove personal opinions and beliefs often alienates any subordinates around the situation. Most do not realize what they do and I'm sure I have been guilty of this as well.
    The process of creating and implementing your vision is a stressful one. People are generally leery of change in the first place and even more uncomfortable with it when it occurs on a large scale. I do however think that this stress in the short-term will lead to great success in the long-term, making it worth every minute.

  3. Your plan hits on all of the key components to successful creation, implementation and evaluation of a districts vision. Embracing unfiltered community input is critical to establish a true community with one voice. "Walk the Walk" , the ability to do this makes the difference from good to great! I am hopeful that if we create a vision with all stakeholders that our personal interests, philosophies, politics, won't get in the way of implementing our plan.

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