Freelancer or Entrepreneur?

I must admit that I love idea man Seth Godin. In the reading and learning I do regularly online, he is one of my favourite writers. Even though he relates his ideas mainly to business, he has helped me see leadership, organizations, innovation and human behaviour though new and exciting lenses. Using these new lenses, I am able to look at and reflect upon my own practice at school and they have provided me with many “aha” moments.

Recently, Seth has started a podcast series of a session that he did with some start-up companies. It is been posted here weekly on earwolf. In the first session, Seth talks about the importance of understanding if you are a freelancer or an entrepreneur. This made me think about being a school principal and myself as a leader, are we freelancers or entrepreneurs?

A freelancer is someone who does work and then gets paid for it. Every time we as leaders are doing things that we are the only ones doing we are freelancers. It is very important to be a freelancer when you are trying to create innovations for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, because you need to truly understand the innovation. George Couros talked about this in the first Leadership 2.0 session. He knew a digital portfolio would be beneficial for all learners in his district, but first he had to have his own digital portfolio so that he could truly understand and explain the benefits and pitfalls to others.  Secondly, it is important because we as leaders need to model the risks you have to take to innovate. This reminds me of when one of my educational leadership teachers taught me that if you want teachers to truly collaborate on improving instruction, you must be the first to volunteer to have a colleague observe your lesson and give you feedback.

An entrepreneur is someone who creates something bigger than themselves. These leaders create systems that can scale, so that even if they left the organization, it would sustain itself and hopefully continue to grow. Every time we as leaders are building structures that create sustainability in our schools we are entrepreneurs.  It is very important to be an entrepreneur when you are trying to sustain innovations.  A good example of this was explained by Jeff Delp in the second Leadership 2.0 session. He talked about how his school created a core values document, that describes how they foster positive relationships in their community.  Leaders who facilitate the building of cultural norms, visions and/or missions based on shared values are truly entrepreneurs creating something that is bigger than themselves.

I call Seth an ideas man not just because he is full of ideas but also because he causes me to have new ideas as well. Here I have learned that we as Principals need to be freelancers when we want to lead a new innovation and entrepreneurs when we want to create systems that sustain changes that are important beyond our term as leader.

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