"The Six Secrets of Change" Offers Straightforward Leadership Approach

"The Six Secrets of Change" Offers Straightforward Leadership Approach

By Ryan Christopoulos

In "The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive," author Michael Fullan lays out six steps that any organization can instill to change and grow.

His "secrets" are:

  • Love your employees
  • Connect peers with purpose
  • Capacity building prevails
  • Learning is the work
  • Transparency rules
  • Systems learn

Fullan approaches each secret in a separate chapter, identifying real-life examples of how these changes have aided in the new direction of the company/organization. He also references his own work, revitalizing and developing the entire school district of Ontario, Canada in the early 2000’s.

As a resource, this text offers a simple and straightforward approach to leadership. While these secrets are presented as theories, the book does not read as a “heady” theory book. Rather it presents each secret as a logical step to being successful in the 21st century.

As Fullan discusses towards the end, the world is ever-changing, and we must also adapt. While previous generations may have had successful individual leaders, we must learn to work together and rely on others to effectively bring our organizations into our current state (Secret Six: Systems learn). This last secret is perhaps the most foreign and progressive of the six.

Mintzberg summarizes it this way: "Leadership is not about making clever decisions and doing bigger deals, least of all for personal gain. It is about energizing other people to make good decisions and do other things. In other words, it is about helping release the positive energy that exists naturally within people. Effective leadership inspires more than empowers; it connects more than controls; it demonstrates more than it decides. It does all of this by engaging-itself above all and consequently others.” (Fullan, 2008 p. 128)

"The Six Secrets of Change" is a great read for all new leaders. When one steps into a leadership role, change inevitably takes place. They may be replacing a beloved leader, stepping into a new position or they may have a new direction for the organization. With all of this in mind, it is important to establish an organization that can continue to thrive moving forward.

Enter "The Six Secrets of Change." The U.S. education system has seen its fair share of change. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Danielson, Value Added Measures  -- all of these new initiatives have left teachers with a variety of opinions about the future of the education system.

Secrets Four (Learning is the work) and Five (Transparency rules) help leaders implement these new systems with fidelity and understanding. If you are a leader or work with a leader who is in the process of leading change, this quick read will give you a foundation to be effective and successful.

As a newly-elected member of our School Leadership Team, I will reflect on these Six Secrets and implement them consistently in my work. Secret Three (Capacity building prevails) will be one that I use heavily, and may be the reason why I am in this role.

The secret is designed to find those within the organization that can take on new roles in order to help the overall success. As I begin to work on projects with this team, it will be important for me to develop capacity in myself and in others that I work with. This is slightly different from Collins' idea of putting the “right people on the bus.” Instead, Fullan suggests focusing on getting the most out of the people already within the organization.

Overall, the most important secret for me to employ is Secret One (Love your employees). Education is a service profession. We serve our students and our communities, but as leaders, we must also serve the people we work with. As a member of the leadership team I must choose to go above and beyond to ensure they are getting the most out of their profession, similar to how I approach my students each day.

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