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Leading in a Culture of Change

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Leading in a Culture of Change


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Moral purpose motivates the best leaders. They understand change, build relationships, share knowledge, find coherence.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


This book by a prominent educator is readable. That may sound like faint praise, but it isn’t at all. Michael Fullan is a university dean, and as such is a full-fledged member of the fraternity of educators. Yet he has not written in educator-ese, that impenetrable, opaque jargon familiar to anyone who has trudged through books on education. His approach to leadership is useful and realistic, with sections on moral purpose, relationships, knowledge sharing and change. Fullan does not set out to break new ground. Instead, he includes a good deal of information he has gathered from other researchers. Occasionally his compendium of useful ideas feels a tad disjointed, but generally, he presents his selections in a logical sequence that leads you to his main conclusion: business leaders have a lot to learn from pioneering school system managers. getAbstract recommends this book to school administrators, business executives and managers who are looking for guidance during organizational transitions.


A New Convergence

Social change is constant, unpredictable and nonlinear. The dilemma confronting the leader is as clear as it is daunting:

  • Fail to act quickly in response to change and you face extinction.
  • Act too quickly and you risk making fatally bad decisions.

Fortunately, researchers today know more about leadership than in the past. They have accumulated a vast amount of broad and deep data, and can draw on leaders’ experiences in an array of institutions that are as superficially dissimilar as businesses and schools. Both must become "learning organizations" that respond constructively to new situations.

Change is both positive and negative. On the one hand, change can be exciting and exhilarating; on the other, it’s risky and dangerous. Leaders must help followers walk the tightrope between exhilaration and fear. Some leaders manage this through their personal charisma, which attracts people who will follow them eagerly through wrenching change. Yet charisma is a mixed blessing. A brief period of euphoria among the followers may give way to a long, discouraging stretch of dependency.

The Five Elements of Leadership

About the Author

Michael Fullan is co-author of What’s Worth Fighting for in Your School and the author of The Change Forces trilogy and The New Meaning of Educational Change.

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