Try this tip: Embrace dissonance.

Dr. JoAnn Sternke, Superintendent of the Baldrige-winning Pewaukee School District (WI), shared this week’s tip with leaders at our What’s Right in Education event in August. It’s especially relevant to me today, as I’m spending time with emerging leaders who work at KIPP Jacksonville Schools (FL). Developing as a leader requires that we embrace contradiction, that we open ourselves to conflict and discomfort, and that we honor opposing perspectives. Exampes of our tip that I’ve seen lately include:

  • A leader beginning a crucial conversation and listening to varied opinions and responses
  • An emerging leader genuinely hearing a different perspective on how others may perceive her words
  • A teacher in a new role acknowledging how uncomfortable it feels not being the expert she was in her former role
  • Parents and teachers openly discussing the difficulties of new instructional content that differs from what we knew as students

Dr. Sternke would say that dissonance leads to innovation, and I agree. Only when we don’t all agree are we forced to argue, collaborate, build consensus, or “disagree and commit.” In doing so, we often arrive at an innovation we’d have missed without the battle; we also grow as a person and a leader. So try this tip: Embrace dissonance.

Interested in learning strategies for embracing dissonance and fostering innovation? Contact us for more information about our coaching for continuous leadership development and systems improvement.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Embrace Dissonance


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