Releasing Leadership Brilliance: Breaking Sound Barriers in Education


Simon T. Bailey & Marceta F. Reilly

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    Praise for Releasing Leadership Brilliance

    “As a former small-plane pilot I was excited to see the book’s flight metaphor and found it very accurate—for both flying and education! The emphasis on culture building and bringing out each person’s brilliance responds perfectly to complaints regarding compliance and new initiatives. As Bailey and Reilly point out, by not focusing on what drags you down and focusing instead on what lifts you up and thrusts you forward, the brilliance of each individual in the educational community will shine.”

    Dr. Linda Gross, past co-author

    Consultant for Council of School Administrators

    New York City, NY

    “The book is an easy read full of excellent success stories. It offers a simple, easy-to-understand way to look at changes that can make a difference in student learning and student efficacy. I love the many references to a broad range of other books that help reinforce the points made.”

    Andy Tompkins, former Commissioner of Education

    Consultant for Regents Universities

    Topeka, KS

    “I’m glad someone took the time to study the Breakthrough Schools and clarify their secrets to success. I encourage leaders everywhere to use Releasing Leadership Brilliance to inspire new thinking and powerful actions. I highly recommend the organizer for addressing leadership as well as the case studies and exercises.”

    Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director

    Learning Forward

    Dallas, TX

    “This book is about big change in our schools and how to make this change in all ZIP codes across the country. Its purpose is to help educational leaders soar, finding both personal and team brilliance. The stories shared are compelling and inspiring highlighting the powerful role of building principals who have transformed schools into places of learning where everyone thrives. The authors challenge educators, asking, ‘Are your limiting beliefs creating barriers to reach your brilliance?’ Anchored in solid research, but written from the viewpoint of caring, courageous, uplifting educators, this book is a must read.”

    Dayna Richardson, Executive Director

    Learning Forward

    Hutchinson, KS

    “A fanciful query into concise actions that can be used to create change in impactful ways. This book is a valuable guide to helping educators focus change that has the promise to spark improvement.”

    Billy Ray Jones, Supervising Principal

    South Jones High School

    Ellisville, MS

    “It’s unbelievable that this compact book could hold so much information and examples in only four chapters. Great read! Great examples! This book is a call to action. I’m unable to read this book and not want to try something new.”

    Delsia Malone, Principal

    W. E. Striplin Elementary

    Gadsden, AL

    “Releasing Leadership Brilliance brings together work from several major educational researchers and cohesively forms practical strategies, techniques, and tools for educational leaders.”

    Glen Ishiwata, Retired Superintendent

    Moreland School District

    San Jose, CA

    “The language in the book speaks directly to educators. The book contains the right mix of fact, life, and guidance. The authors write with authenticity by virtue of having lived the experiences.”

    Neil MacNeill, Head Master

    Ellenbrook Independent Primary School

    Ellenbrook, Western Australia

    “Finally! This book successfully brings forth both theory and tools, with the passion that calls to educators who want to achieve better outcomes for ALL students. The stories of schools that have consistently improved…who have overcome the obstacles and stopped talking about barriers but rather removed them TOGETHER are powerful! This book offers so many suggestions for how to achieve great results in any school or district while highlighting the important point that all team members are leaders.”

    Lynn Lisy-Macan, Visiting Assistant Professor

    University at Albany-SUNY

    Albany, NY

    “This book is unique among books on leadership theory, change agency, and transformational change. Furthermore, it includes many tools to engage readers in the type of self-reflection that draws one into action.”

    Karen L. Tichy, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership

    Saint Louis University

    St. Louis, MO

    “The quest to find our best selves, live our best lives, and shine with our own brilliance is the heart’s desire of every human being. Two people compelled to help us find that pathway and acknowledge our brilliance have been divinely called. NASSP supports Great Leaders in every school who are committed to the success of each student. Through this commitment we provide resources to school leaders as they journey to develop themselves, their teachers, and their students. NASSP enthusiastically endorses this book and readily shared the stories of the leaders of our Breakthrough Schools to move Simon T. Bailey and Marceta F. Reilly’s message of Brilliance forward. This book is a brilliant light.”

    Dr. Beverly Hutton, Deputy Executive Director/Chief Program Officer

    National Association of Secondary School Principals

    Reston, VA

    “What a fun, encouraging, doable, brilliant message for today’s educators on their way to becoming champions for all! This book is an essential next step for those aspiring leaders who are stuck in the overwhelming rut of professional development. It is a brilliant way to expand our thinking into practical ways of having thoughtful conversations with staff, students, parents, and community. Building a leadership conversation around the metaphor of flight is another brilliant move, as is the use of success stories from all walks of life.”

    Joan Hearne, MEd, ACC Adjunct Professor, Former Principal/Coordinator of Staff Development

    Newman University and Wichita Public Schools

    Wichita, KS

    “Simon T. Bailey and Marceta F. Reilly have presented a gift of their combined wisdom, experience, and brilliance. Not only do they offer illuminating research and stories, but they have enriched and expanded the information with interviews of those who employ best practices. You will find ready-to-use tools and activities for professional learning and collaboration. If you are a busy leader looking for a new lift in your leadership, keep this book close in your day-to-day work for informative and practical resources, knowledge, and inspiration. Use it as the basis for fresh dialogue as you elevate your leadership and break sound barriers toward a brilliant education for all those you serve.”

    Diana Williams, Leadership Coach, Author and Chief of Evaluation Services

    Coaching for Results, Inc.

    Columbus, OH

    “Rarely are school leaders presented with a comprehensive leadership book that addresses all the players in the educational arena—the leader, community members, instructional staff, and students. The expertise shared by the authors—a business executive and a former superintendent/leadership coach—provide exercises, tools, and resources designed to break the sound barrier of limiting beliefs for each of these populations. The stories included from courageous school leaders offer hope to practitioners intent on using the expertise inside their system to bring lasting instructional change for all the students they serve. Bravo!”

    Edna Harris, Co-author

    Results Coaching: The New Essential for School Leaders

    Round Rock, TX


    Simon and Marceta remind us that there is more than one way to understand and appreciate the dynamic forces at work in education. They introduce educational leaders to the metaphor of aviation to connect the dynamics of flying to the dynamics of leading. Concepts such as weight, lift, thrust, and drag provide readers with a new mindset for leadership. Little did I realize that I would truly learn how to “fly,” not in flight school but by reading their book about leadership in education! This book is about what it takes for schools—and everyone who works in them—to take off … or, in aspirational terms, be able to dream and set goals for the future while being inspired in the present to reach your everyday brilliance!

    Releasing Leadership Brilliance does more than provide a framework for transforming schools; it provides concrete examples and resources that are essential to effectively allow all individuals to fly and be brilliant. The real-life case studies are examples of success that allow readers to understand the type of fuel it takes for an entire educational community to take flight with passion and a commitment to sustainable transformation. The exercises included in each chapter assist readers in reflecting on the current state of their own leadership and their schools and help them assess the most effective way forward.

    Data from the Quaglia School Voice Surveys indicates that in order to move forward together, leaders must be willing to listen to and learn from members of the school community. When stakeholders have a voice in the school improvement process, they increase their sense of self-worth, are meaningfully engaged, and above all, have a genuine sense of purpose. The School Voice Report 2016 shows that students who agree that they have a voice in school are seven times more likely to report they are academically motivated than students who do not agree with those Student Voice statements. Similarly, the national teacher data demonstrate that when teachers have a voice, they are more motivated and more positive about their influential role as teachers. The report shows that when teachers believe that building administration is open to new ideas and/or willing to learn from staff, they are two to four times more likely to value setting goals, to work hard to reach their goals, and to have positive feelings about their ability to make a difference as a teacher. Clearly, if leadership brilliance is to be realized, the voices of all in education need to be heard and valued.

    Not only does incorporating voice in school transformation positively impact those providing input, but it simultaneously ensures that decisions are based on information gathered from the very individuals with firsthand experience in schools. What better feedback is there to help reduce drag? As you consider professional development at your school, remember that just as your student body changes each year, so should your teacher training. Brilliant leaders make it a point to listen and learn from teachers and students—determine what the existing needs are and establish professional development that addresses those needs. Meaningful, relevant professional development that responds to the voice of stakeholders is critical for sustainable transformation.

    Simon and Marceta have high expectations of you as a reader. (And they should, just as there should be high expectations for teachers and students!) As you read this book, you should be prepared to self-reflect, examine your own beliefs and goals for the school, and commit to collaborating with others to determine effective ways to improve student achievement. Always remember that leadership is a collaborative journey, one where individuals should feel valued for their unique talents, ideas, and insights. I have found the most effective approach for this is the School Voice Model: Listen, Learn, and Lead, as explained in Principal Voice (Quaglia, 2016). Having voice as a leader is about taking action: listening to the voices of those around you, learning from the thoughts and ideas of others, and leading toward a shared goal—all the while respecting and supporting others through the journey. Using your voice, in a collaborative leadership role, will allow you to foster the ability of everyone in your school to reach their fullest potential. This action-oriented approach resonates in the Releasing Leadership Brilliance journey, where collaboration and teamwork underscore the ability to release the individual and collective brilliance throughout your school!

    This book challenges you to evaluate yourself first, reflect on your own beliefs, and assess how you conduct yourself as a leader. Armed with this knowledge, you can unlock your own potential. With a commitment to improving your own leadership skills, you can then invite others to begin their journeys. With a shared belief in the goals of the school, these journeys can merge to inspire and engage students, colleagues, and community members alike. When your school environment is filled with individuals who are committed to reducing drag and engaging students, then students have the opportunity to soar. Isn’t that why we all became educators in the first place—to help every individual reach his or her fullest potential?

    I know the next time I am sitting on a runway preparing for take-off to another school district, I will have a completely different mindset when the pilot says, “We are number one for takeoff!” My seatbelt will be fastened, and I will be better prepared to create lift in schools, thanks to Simon and Marceta.

    Russell J. Quaglia


    We would like say thank you to Jayne Warrilow for being the brilliant connector who brought us together. We are forever grateful for you imparting your sage wisdom into our lives.

    Thank you to Melissa Spencer for coordinating hectic schedules between two busy people. We celebrate your administrative brilliance. Denise Milligan, thank you for sharing your business strategies with us and being our cheerleader in this process. Gennia Holder, thank you for using your technology brilliance to ensure that we made use of all the social media tools to get this book out into the world.

    Our editor, Arnis Burvikovs, you are brilliant, and thank you for recognizing the potential of our book. Thank you for prodding, encouraging, coaching, and guiding our work.

    Thank you to Desirée Bartlett, Anne Mesick, Rose Storey, Andrew Olson, Kaitlyn Irwin, Amy Schroller, and the rest of the Corwin team for championing our work and patiently helping us bring our ideas to life. You are consummate professionals and one of the finest publishers we’ve ever worked with in the world.

    Dr. Beverly Hutton, you are one of the finest human beings we know. Thank you for believing in our book and introducing us to the NASSP. We cherish our relationship and look forward to our collaboration in the days ahead.

    Joan Auchter, the first time we met you at the NASSP offices there was an instant connection. You resonated with our vision for transforming the mindsets of educators and graciously shared your seasoned insights. Thank you.

    Josephine Franklin, you are one of the kindest people we’ve ever met. We are forever thankful to you for accepting our conference calls, face-to-face meetings, e-mails, and questions regarding the Breaking Ranks® framework. Our book wouldn’t be what it is today without your input. Bravo!

    Sue Pepe and Carol Fetzer, you strongly encouraged us to include stories of NAESP in our book. Well, we did it and the book is so much richer because of your suggestion.

    Dr. Barbara Jenkins, thank you for listening, motivating, and leading by example. Pam Gould and Kat Gordon, you are some of the finest school board members in public education. Orange County Public School students and parents are better because of your brilliant imprint.

    Thank you to all of the inspiring principals and school leaders who were interviewed for this book. You rock!

    Paul Vorreiter, WOW…is all that we can say for designing a book cover that we love. Susan Wranick, thank you for helping shape our keynote presentation.

    Thank you to the brilliant Corwin authors who, without hesitation, answered our survey questions, accepted our conference calls, and answered our follow-up questions. We are forever grateful for your kindness and the difference you are making in the world.

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin would like to recognize the following individuals for taking the time to provide their editorial insight and guidance:

    Glen Ishiwata, Retired Superintendent

    Moreland School District

    San Jose, CA

    Billy Ray Jones, Principal and Student Voice Consultant

    South Jones High School

    Ellisville, MS

    Lynn Lisy-Macan, Visiting Assistant Professor

    University at Albany-SUNY

    Albany, NY

    Neil MacNeill, Head Master

    Ellenbrook Independent Primary School

    Ellenbrook, Western Australia

    Delsia Malone, Principal

    W. E. Striplin Elementary School

    Gadsden, AL

    Karen Ray, Director of Professional Learning and Advanced Academics

    Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD

    Fort Worth, TX

    Karen L. Tichy, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership

    Saint Louis University

    St. Louis, MO

    About the Authors

    Simon T. Bailey is attempting to put a dent in the universe. He is a guy from inner-city Buffalo, New York, who currently resides in Orlando, Florida. He leads an educational company whose purpose is to teach one billion people how to be brilliant in life and business. He is the former sales director of Disney Institute and one of America’s top 10 most-booked corporate and association speakers. He is the proud father of two awesome teenagers. He loves movies and cheers on the Buffalo Bills, who will win a Super Bowl in his lifetime!

    Marceta F. Reilly is a thought leader and passionate advocate for creating schools and districts in which everybody—students, staff, parents, community—thrives. She spent 34 years of her career in public education experimenting with ways to teach and lead that make schools the trusted center (the heart!) of a community. Now she spends her time as an author, speaker, and leadership coach for educators across the United States. Marceta and her husband have two daughters and six brilliant grandchildren. She loves traveling, wine tasting, and keeping up with the grandkids as their lives unfold.


    To my brilliant gems—Daniel and Madison, you are the wind beneath my wings. I love you and believe in you.


    To Ms. Rosa Stephens, Mrs. Rita Lankes, Dorothy Buchanan, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and all the educators who polished me when I was a diamond in the rough.


    To all educators and children—you are our future! Dream big! Be bold! Have confidence and courage to create a “justice-seeking, earth-honoring, self-respecting” world for all of us.


    To my grandchildren in particular—you are the reason I do what I do! You give me hope and dreams of a world where everybody thrives. I love you all!


  • Are You Ready to Experience the #BreakBarriersTogether Community?

    We believe that, as educational leaders, you can transform your school system when you are equipped with the mindset, skillset and toolkit that enables the concepts in Releasing Leadership Brilliance – Breaking Sound Barriers in Education to work.

    We’ve created some simple steps to engage you in growing your own professional learning along this pathway.

    • Step 1:
      • Download a copy of the “Starter Guide” that accompanies Releasing Leadership Brilliance: Breaking Sound Barriers in Education.
    • Step 2:
      • Join our #BreakBarriersTogether exclusive educational community at
        • Immerse yourself with other educators who are all on the journey to Releasing Leadership Brilliance;
        • The group will have access to monthly calls with the authors about implementation topics;
        • Members will share their experiences and have an opportunity to ask questions of the authors and each other; and,
        • Get advance notice of workshops and events coming up to support their implementation efforts.
    • Step 3:
      • Invest in professional development for your school, district, region, or state by hosting a one-day workshop or by gathering your colleagues to join our cohort online course.
    • Step 4:
      • Contact us with your questions and success stories to share with others:

    Bonus—Become a certified coach/facilitator of the Releasing Leadership Brilliance Team. This is an exclusive experience and given by invitation only.

    Appendix: Exercises to Put Releasing Leadership Brilliance Into Practice

    Exercises to Put Releasing Leadership Brilliance> Into Practice

    This Appendix includes all the exercises from the book. They are tools that Simon and Marceta use to help their clients begin the implementation journey. Use them like a flight plan to get you to the destination of Leadership Brilliance.

    We recommend you find a stress-free location away from distractions to do this work. Bring your full presence to it. Let your thinking and feelings emerge to share wisdom with you. Your inner self knows you well, so give it time to speak to you.

    Chapter 1: These exercises will help begin your journey of self-discovery so that you recognize your strengths and understand what drives you.

    • 1.1: Mining Your Motivator
      • Drill down to find your primary driver.
    • 1.2: What Kind of Leader Do I Want to Be?
      • Explore the human characteristics you want to resonate in your work.
    • 1.3: Four Cornerstones Worksheet
      • Explore the four key characteristics that you believe create great leadership.

    Chapter 2: These exercises will help you consider how to ignite commitment from school staff and engage community support.

    • 2.1: “SPARK” Innovation in Your Partnerships
      • Deepen your understanding of why and how you are working with specific partners.
    • 2.2: Action Planning for Partners
      • Plan work together as full partners.
    • 2.3: Public Agenda Community Conversation Project
      • Get guidance about how to plan and host a conversation event at your school or district.

    Chapter 3: These exercises help you assess and develop your team.

    • 3.1: Is Your Team an Asset or Liability?
      • Assess the assets of your team and consider how to use them to best advantage.
    • 3.2: Skill Versus Will Analysis
      • Analyze individuals based on their skill level and willingness to work with you.
    • 3.3: Reframing Complaints
      • Change nagging complaints into learning what people care about underneath them.

    Chapter 4: These exercises will help you consider ways to create WOW experiences for students.

    • 4.1: Surprise and Delight Teaching Experience
      • Use your own WOW experiences with students to figure out how to recreate them more often.
    • 4.2: How Strong Is Student Voice at Your School?
      • Rate how well you and your team are doing in developing student voice at your school.
    • 4.3: How Student-Centered Is Your School and Its System?
      • Assess your school system’s structures, policies, and procedures for its student-centered perspective.
    Exercise 1.1: Mining Your Motivator

    Every person is motivated by something in particular. When you know what motivates you, your role becomes more rewarding. You are driven by your passion, and you have a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. This kind of energy is natural and essential for personal success.

    But sometimes you can lose sight of what gets you going and find yourself “in the rough.” The following exercise will help you drill down on what your primary driver is. Knowing that, you are in a better position to ignite your own brilliance.

    Part One

    Ask yourself what kinds of drivers, or payoffs, you seek in anything you do. For example, you may get a sense of satisfaction by making a difference, by helping people, or by overcoming barriers to meet a goal.

    To get you thinking, review the list of payoffs, or motivators, on the following page, and circle seven that speak to you as the ones that impact you most.

    Part Two

    Review the seven choices you circled and select the top three that most motivate you, then record them in the space below.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

    Examine your top three motivators and select the one that you consider your Core Motivator. Record that in the space below.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

    © Bailey, 2016.

    Adapted from Cheryl Richardson (2005). Stand Up for Your Life.

    Exercise 1.2: What Kind of Leader Do I Want to Be?


    • Why are you doing the work you’ve chosen to do? (What is your grand purpose?)


    • What is the impact you want to have on your staff and your workplace environment?


    • What concerns do you have when it comes to putting energy into leading a school improvement initiative?


    • What would need to happen with this work for you to consider it a great success?


    • What might stop you from attaining your goals?


    • What is working really well for you right now regarding motivating and inspiring staff?


    • How do you want to show up as the leader you want to be? (What characteristics do you want people to really “get” about you?)

    Exercise 1.3: Four Cornerstone Worksheet

    Identify your four “cornerstones” (key characteristics) of great leadership. Then “unpack them” in detail below. Use a separate sheet for each cornerstone. This will help you know what specific skills, behaviors, and attitudes you want to develop.

    Name of the Pillar

    Individual Level:

    How does this cornerstone look, sound, and feel as it is visible in me?

    What is its impact on me?

    In relationship(s):

    How does this cornerstone look, sound, and feel as it is visible in relationship with others?

    What is its impact on the relationship?

    In the broader community:

    How does this cornerstone look, sound, and feel when it is visible in the broader community?

    What is its impact on the community?

    Adapted from Jayne Warrilow (

    Exercise 2.1: “SPARK” Innovation in Your Partnerships

    Community is to create, shape, and expand the educational experience and impact for students. Innovation-driven partnerships attract and engage people, working together for success of all students.

    Here are five key question areas your partnership can use to help you focus on your strengths, work collaboratively, and create innovative experiences for students.


    What is the synergy in the partnership that draws you to work for children?

    The first thing you want to discuss is how you and your partner(s) find meaning in connecting around creating remarkable experiences for students. Briefly remind yourselves that you are in this together. What is each partner’s critical role in serving others? How can you leverage this natural synergy?


    How can we best contribute toward each other’s purpose?

    Once you understand where you and your partners synergize, this question lets you and your partner identify expectations and roles. By listening to your partners’ responses, you can understand each other’s purpose in the student experience. Then clarify and manage how you can help meet each other’s objectives. Determine ways in which you can innovate to move beyond today’s current situation.


    What are we hoping to accomplish?

    When you ask this, you and your partner(s) are trying to find out what things are important to each of you, what you are both hoping to accomplish in the way of innovation. Be prepared to ask further questions and clarify each other’s understanding so you can know on a deeper level what each of you really needs. As a result, you and your partner(s) will know what is important and what to focus on.


    What does the ideal relationship look like?

    This question allows you and your partner(s) to describe the kind of working relationship you want to have. Some follow-up questions that can help you:

    How often should we meet?

    What is the best way for us to communicate?

    How do we keep the new ideas flowing?

    Who else should be involved?


    How can we keep the relationship positive and “for life”?

    On an ongoing basis, it is a good idea for you to exchange feedback with your partner(s). When you ask this question regularly, you show your partner(s) that you care about their opinions and that you are constantly striving for improvement. Keep each other motivated to continue raising the bar by trying new ideas.

    © Bailey, 2016.

    Exercise 2.2: Action Planning for Partners

    Use this exercise to help you plan your work together as partners. It makes the work explicit, identifies the key partners needed, and clarifies the greater goal(s) everyone wants.

    Use each row to identify the key work for each partner and then use the tool again to plan specific tasks in the partner project.

    Example: Summer School Planning

    Exercise 2.3: Public Agenda Community Conversation Project

    Visit the Public Agenda website here:

    There are many resources available on this website to help you open up conversations and discussions about topics important to your parents and community members. Under the tab “Our Library,” many discussion topics are listed for community conversations. I expanded the K–12 section on the discussion starters webpage and found 19 issues. Below are three examples of the 19 offered by Public Agenda:

    • How can we ensure that all children have excellent teachers?
    • Creating a formula for success in low-performing schools
    • Ready for 21st-century careers

    Each discussion starter has three or four typical responses and asks participants to discuss each, weighing the pros and cons for the community. The different perspectives are drawn from what the public thinks about an issue, based on surveys and focus groups, as well as what experts and leaders say about it in policy debates. They are not meant to be definitive but to get the conversation started based on several legitimate perspectives. Such conversations are frequently a solid first step toward new partnerships and initiatives.

    Public Agenda’s model for Community Conversations encompasses several key principles:

    • Local Nonpartisan Sponsoring Coalition: A coalition of local organizations and institutions to sponsor and help organize the Community Conversation.
    • Diverse Participants: Participation that represents a cross section of the community—not just the usual suspects—to ensure that all groups and stakeholders are represented and heard from.
    • Dialogue in Small, Diverse Groups: Small group discussions facilitated by trained and objective moderators and recorders who document the proceedings for effective follow-up.

    Rather than lectures by experts, or gripe sessions by angry constituents, well-designed Community Conversations create a frank, productive problem-solving process in which diverse ideas are put on the table, diverse participants sit at the table, and people work to find common ground and solutions.

    Exercise 3.1: Is Your Team an Asset or Liability?

    The public today expects high performance from schools, educators, and students. For this reason, our teams need staff at all levels who are assets (people who contribute value) rather than liabilities (people who are disengaged or drawbacks) in planning robust instruction for students.

    Are you getting the maximum value from your staff members? Are you tapping into their desire to be high-value assets by using their minds to create greater student engagement and learning?

    How can you help them bring more professional presence to their teamwork? Help them see the value in being thinking-intensive workers: men and women who use their intangible assets—their knowledge, skills, relationships, and talent—to drive student learning.

    Step 1

    Think about yourself and your team. List their names or initials below.

    Step 2

    List the unique intangible asset (knowledge, skill, talent, etc.) each person can offer the team. Be concise and specific.

    Step 3

    As a leader, identify how you can leverage their assets to generate the greatest impact for engaging students with instruction.


    Knows how to use guided reading process very effectively.

    Ask her to present Guided Reading at a faculty meeting to help move this instructional strategy into more classrooms.


    Is excellent in building relationships with challenging young boys.

    Ask him to share one of his stories of connecting to a tough kid and explain why he thinks it worked with the student.

    Then ask him to apply this insight to setting higher learning expectations for young boys.

    Exercise 3.2: Skill Versus Will Analysis

    The Skill Versus Will matrix helps answer two simple yet important questions:

    • How much can the person rely on his or her skills to complete the task?
    • How much does that person really want to complete the task?

    Analyze your staff using our Skill Versus Will model. How can this data help you tailor your conversations with individual faculty members? Who are the people in the high skill/high will quadrant whom you could tap for more leadership responsibility?

    Think about two or three teachers you are currently working with. Analyze where they might be on the model. How could this model help you to work with these individuals?

    High Will


    • Offer low-risk opportunities to grow and learn.
    • Provide tools, training, coaching, and feedback about what they are doing well.
    • Relax judgment and control as you recognize progress.


    • Recognize them and communicate your trust in them.
    • Help them develop stretch goals, broaden their responsibilities, and treat them as “partners.”
    • Give broad latitude for them to experiment, allowing them to share their experiences and mentor others.
    • Help them become the shapers of the culture.

    Low Will


    • Get to know individuals personally and assume positive intent.
    • Help them create a vision for their work.
    • Structure quick wins, train/coach patiently, supervise with frequent feedback about the progress you see, and set clear expectations.


    • Get to know individuals personally, what motivates them, and the values to which they aspire.
    • Seek to understand “why” they have low will.
    • Help them reconnect to what drew them into education in the first place.
    • Look for and provide recognition to reinforce their positive behaviors.

    Low Skill

    High Skill

    Adapted from Landsberg, M. (2009). The Tao of Coaching. London: Profile Books.

    Exercise 3.3: Reframing Complaints

    When you are faced with a recurring complaint from your staff, parents, or community, use this exercise to figure out what people are really asking for underneath the surface words. It will help you address what they care about when you respond, instead of getting into a debate about the complaint on the surface.

    Think about a person (colleague, school parent, friend, or family member) who is always complaining to you about an issue.

    Exercise 4.1: Surprise and Delight Teaching Experience

    1. Think of a time when you, as a teacher, experienced an extraordinary student relationship moment—an experience that was above and beyond what you had expected. Describe the experience below.

    2. What was the surprise?

    3. How did it make you feel?

    4. What did it make you do?

    5. How can you create more extraordinary moments like this for other students?

    Share and compare your stories with your team members.

    Exercise 4.2: How Strong Is Student Voice at Your School?

    Rate your level of agreement with the statements below on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = disagree completely and 5 = agree completely). The questions are based on the “Aspirations Framework” by Russ Quaglia (Quaglia & Corso, 2014).

    Share your results within your team, then discuss these questions:

    • Is there agreement about the ratings across all classrooms?
    • Where are areas of greatest success?
    • What are deficit areas?
    • Which area does your team consider a priority?
    • Where is there agreement to work together to improve the ratings in that area?
    • How will you measure progress?
    • How will you support each other?
    • What are ways to show personal accountability?

    Based on the “Aspirations Framework” by Russ Quaglia.

    Exercise 4.3: How Student-Centered Is Your School and Its System?

    Have a districtwide internal discussion about these questions. Gather data and input from students, staff, and community members.

    • Assess your school according to how well it is meeting the learning needs of students.
      • What data are most important for you to be monitoring?
      • What are the data telling you?
    • Assess your school from the perspective of student voice.
      • What are the students telling you about their learning experience at school?
      • How do teachers demonstrate they are student-centered?
      • How does the school respond to student input?
    • Assess how well your teacher teams work together to improve student learning.
      • What percentage of team time is spent in conversations about meeting student learning needs?
      • Which of your team’s interpersonal skills make team collaboration effective? What may be getting in the way?
      • How engaged and supportive of each other are teachers as they collaborate around instructional impact?
    • Rate how well leaders model how they want teachers to treat students.
      • Are leaders walking their talk?
    • Assess your system according to the organizational wheel.
      • Is the district office delivering support to the schools for student needs as defined at the school level, or is it focused on bureaucratic compliance instead?
      • In which direction is the thrust flowing?

    © Bailey & Reilly 2016.

    Recommended Reading

    There were several books that influenced our writing of Releasing Leadership Brilliance: Breaking Sound Barriers in Education, and we want to share just a few with you.

    Release Your Brilliance: The 4 Steps to Transforming Your Life and Revealing Your Genius to the World by Simon T. Bailey. You will learn why a job is what you are paid to do, but Release Your Brilliance is what you are made to do. Everyone is a diamond and they are formed through heat, pressure, and change. This book is the catalyst and foundation for writing Releasing Leadership Brilliance. Thank you, Corwin.

    Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation at a Time by Linda M. Gross Cheliotes and Marceta F. Reilly. This book introduces educational leaders to essential communication skills—committed listening, positive intention, powerful questioning, and reflective feedback. These skills remind us to be mindful of the power of words and how they shape minds.

    Student Voice: The Instrument of Change by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso. Russell and Michael have written a provocative book. Their research simply proves that meaningful school reform starts with the most powerful partners—your students. They also give you a thorough blueprint for engaging students.

    More Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn Singleton. Race is often the last conversation that people, let alone educators, ever want to have. When we were writing our book, Glenn was the catalyst that challenged us not to tip-toe through the tulips about race in education. He provided us with keen insight on how to move conversations beyond black and white. You will learn a framework for achieving racial equity in education. We encourage you to read it and pass it on.

    In his previous book, Courageous Conversations About Race, Singleton cites grim statistics about the impact of race on student achievement. College Board SAT data show white students outperformed black and brown students at every income level, and black students are the lowest performing group at every income level. There is even achievement disparity between black and white students who are equally poor. And poorer white students actually outperformed middle income black and brown students.

    Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie. This is a classic must-read for educators who are serious about sustainable transformation in their school. This is one of the books that you read, share, pass on, and then go back and read it again. This is like going back for seconds after a really good meal.

    Evaluating Instructional Leadership: Recognized Practices for Success by Julie and Raymond Smith. When we first met Julie and Raymond Smith, we knew that we were in the presence of dynamic educators. Their combined 70+ years of educational wisdom is distilled down into nine chapters that focus on effectiveness, applicability, and deliberate practice.

    Deliberate Optimism: Reclaiming the Joy in Education by Debbie Silver, Jack Berckemeyer, and Judith Baenen. The title alone sums up why this is one of our favorite books. Just like a skillful surgeon, the authors equip teachers with five tried-and-true principles on how to be deliberate. You will love Chapter 3. It’s almost as if the authors are living in our head as educators.

    The Multigenerational Workplace by Jennifer Abrams and Valerie Von Frank. We love the deep-dive insight on how to be generationally savvy. The research, simplicity, and applicable steps are critical to implementing their wisdom.

    The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose. Hands down, this has to be one of the most important books to read right now. A friend told me about it, and I told Marceta about it, and on and on. One of my favorite quotes in the book: “In school, you are graded and ranked by comparing your performance to the average student.” Todd Rose is the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Yong Zhao. As entrepreneurs, we love this book. Yong is a professor/researcher who unlocks the secrets to cultivating independent thinkers who will think differently about creating jobs and solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

    Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge, Grades 1–8 by Gravity Goldberg. This is one of our favorite reads. Gravity highlights key ways for teachers to examine their roles in impacting the reader. I like the insight on how to be a miner, mirror, model, and mentor.

    Optimize Your School: It’s All About Strategy by Lyle Leon Jenkins. The insight in this book is profound. We love that Lyle added “strategic thinking” to the continuous improvement model.

    Leadership Coaching for Educators: Bringing Out the Best in School Administrators by Karla Reiss. This book masterfully lays out the case for coaching in the educational space. You can discover how the Colorado Association of School Executives, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, and Georgia School Superintendents Association leverage coaching.

    High Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching by Jim Knight. This is the gold standard for how to teach effectively. Any teacher who is serious about influencing her students long-term needs to have this book.

    Partnering With Students: Building Ownership of Learning by Mary J. O’Connell and Kara Vandas. We really like this step-by-step guide about building learning capacity and creating a classroom culture in which students take the lead.

    The Principal’s Companion: Strategies to Lead Schools for Student and Teacher Success by Pamela M. Robbins and Harvey Alvy. This commonsense approach to being a learning leader is refreshing. One of our favorite chapters is about effectively working with the central office to coordinate teaching, learning, and professional development.

    Quality Questioning: Research-Based Practice to Engage Every Learner by Jackie Walsh and Beth Sattes. In any educational situation, there is often the need to ask a quantity of questions. However, Jackie and Beth provide us with the understanding that questions can trigger thinking, transform schools, and enrich your professional development journey.


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