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The Learning Leader Douglas B. Reeves. How to Focus Improvement for Better Results Part I. Focus Improvement. Complexity of Leadership Research. Contrived Complexity. Artificial Simplicity. “Unwarranted Simplicity” Propose easy steps to success 3 rules 7 steps Easy, simple, quick

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the learning leader douglas b reeves

The Learning LeaderDouglas B. Reeves

How to Focus Improvement for Better Results

Part I

complexity of leadership research
Complexity of Leadership Research

Contrived Complexity

Artificial Simplicity

“Unwarranted Simplicity”

Propose easy steps to success

3 rules

7 steps

Easy, simple, quick

Groundless in research

No long-term gains

  • “Pretentious Terminology”
  • “Laborious Processes”
  • Lack Substance
  • Enslaved by Process
  • The focus has become the plan, not the quest for improvement
  • We do improvement plans, we don’t improve achievement
both types of complexity
Both Types of Complexity
  • Frustrate participants
  • Waste time
  • Waste resources
  • Avoid real issues of improvement
  • Produce plans for “planning’s sake”
  • Check off “steps accomplished”
  • Never identify/engage the issues
must strike a balance between
Must Strike a Balance Between



  • Grapple with complex data
  • Analyze issues to determine the essential
  • Understand the “multivariate” nature of all problems
  • Accept the lessons of failure
  • Complex human systems
keys to improvement
Keys to Improvement
  • Monitoring
  • Evaluation
  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Implementation
  • All are, by definition, difficult human endeavors
  • “Someone must actually do the hard work of slogging through the data, assessing the intersection of tens of thousands of data points, comparing the results of quantitative and qualitative analyses, and filtering each hypothesis through the multiple lenses of research, experience and:
  • common sense”
          • Doug Reeves
messy leadership preferred
Messy Leadership Preferred






Precedence over achievement

  • Review data
  • Mid-course corrections
  • Focus on leverage points
  • Repeat steps to focus improvement

Leading or






















the lucky
The Lucky

High Results, No Understanding of Antecedents

Achievement not related to instruction

Performance predates teaching

Success not sustainable or attributed to adult actions

Replication of success unlikely

the loser
The Loser

Low results, no understanding of antecedents

Attribute failure to students, parents, SES, ethnicity, etc.

No reason to change

Victimhood, “Belligerent indifference”


Replication of failure highly likely

the leader
The Leader

High Results, good understanding of antecedents

Pursues continuous improvement

Realizes that success that is static is transitory

Replication of Success is likely

the learner
The Learner

Low results, high understanding of antecedents

Engages with data

Tests hypothesis

Does not blame

Identifies successes

Searches to Learn to improve learning

Replication of success likely

research based truths of leadership
Research-Based Truths of Leadership
  • Adult Actions Matter
  • Specific Leadership Actions Link to Improved Student Achievement
  • Leadership is not one skill nor the action of an individual
adult actions matter
Adult Actions Matter

Leadership, teaching and adult actions have more power in determining achievement than demographic factors.

specific leadership actions improve achievement
Specific Leadership Actions Improve Achievement
  • Inquiry: successful determination of failure and success (adult causes, “blaming victim” is statistically untrue”)
  • Implementation: specific elements of improvement are implemented with students at the classroom level, and are implemented continuously
  • Monitoring: ongoing assessment of success and failure, not at program level, but at the student level
leadership not one skill or actions of an individual
Leadership Not One Skill or Actions of an Individual

Leadership utilizes a variety of skills, attitudes and beliefs

Leadership utilizes a variety of people from all parts of the organization many of whom are not called “leader.”

challenging leadership myths
Challenging Leadership Myths
  • Historical Models
  • Analytical Models
  • Relationship Models
  • “The One Thing You Need to Know”
historical myths
Historical Myths

“Historical Heroes” as Leadership Models

All historical accounts skewed by reporters and their context;

While models of heroism are useful, actions do not transfer directly across space and time.

Historical biography at best good reporting not sound research;

analytical myths
Analytical Myths

Analysis alone is the attempt to quantify human behavior, and alone is due to fail.

Myth: Since “low SES schools” perform more poorly than “high SES” schools, poverty determines achievement.

(When most Low SES schools also have a lower percentage of quality teachers.)

“Two variable correlations insinuate only one cause and effect”

Life is “Multivariate”

relationship myths
Relationship Myths

While “emotional intelligence” has been proven a significant factor in leadership success, sole reliance on positive relationships and conflict avoidance is ineffective and not supported by results.


The leader that avoids conflict at the expense of results.

The leader that may be criticized as impersonal but is revered for results after they leave.

the one thing you need to know myth
The One Thing You Need to Know Myth

Leadership defies one-dimensional definition.

The range of variability in human behavior approaches the infinite.

Understanding of Leadership can be informed by history, analysis, and relationship theory.

There is never “one thing,” in an organization.

Leadership is multi-dimensional.

Leadership is not solitary: “We cannot do it alone.”

learning listening break
Learning Listening Break
  • Group review of Learning to Lead Podcasts by Doug Reeves
  • Listen, Discuss, Summarize, Report Out

Model Teachers

The Value of Culture

3 Challenges of Web 3.0

Looking Deeper in Data

Avoiding the Landmines

let s start again with some humor
Let’s Start Again With Some Humor
  • A Video Portrait of this Class in a few Years!
can t do it alone
Can’t Do It Alone

Leadership is multi-dimensional.

No single person is capable of excellence in all dimensions.

Leadership must be an organizational function.

Shared responsibility with complementing leadership roles.

No single person bears the brunt of being exemplary in all aspects.

wisdom of the group
Wisdom of the Group

Leadership decision-making more accurate when entrusted to a group or team.

Likelihood of success greater via the team than the individual.

Even in Probability the greater the number of trials the greater the accuracy.

Coaches pick those that complement not those that repeat the same strengths and weaknesses.

architectural leadership
Architectural Leadership

Leaders are the Architects of Organizational Improvement

Vision alone cannot lead.

Leadership then becomes

Distributive, Collaborative,

Connective, Complimentary,

Empowering, Inclusive