PMP380: Dynamics of Building Leaders vs District Leaders with Will Parker and Jen Schwanke

This week Jen Schwanke and Will Parker discuss the dynamics involved in building leadership vs district leadership. Although still a principal at heart, Jen has served in the role of Deputy Superintendent now for three years. Will asked her to reflect on the following:

  1. What surprised her more in the transition from building leadership to central office leadership?
  2. If she could go back and talk to herself as a principal, what advice might she now give?
  3. How do we bridge the gap that often exists between district-level leadership and building leadership?

A few highlights include:

  • It can’t be us vs them if we want collective efficacy in reaching goals for all students.
  • Building level leadership involves enormous complexity with direct human elements. This is important for central office leaders to keep in mind as sometimes central office leaders can become more siloed in their assigned tasks.
  • Principals need support if they are to do the long term, sustainable work of school improvement.
  • The tension we feel in accountability and power dynamics, no matter what role we serve.
  • If we feel these gaps and tensions, how might this affect the ways our teachers see us as their leaders?
  • Ways to bridge the inevitable gaps that exist between leadership roles, including talking about and acknowledging the gaps as well as committing time to build relationships across the gaps.

We also discuss some takeaways from Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. You can find the book here.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are the pros and cons you have experienced in the different expectations among building-level and district-level leadership? How do you respond if working with an authority figure who is not connected or even untrustworthy? 

Listen-in to the entire conversation for more takeaways. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this topic. Thank you again for doing what matters!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker