Ours, not Mine: The importance of shared decision-making

I originally wrote this reflection as part of an assignment for my Virginia Tech Government and Policy in Education class a few weeks ago. Recent decision-making regarding changes at the national level has provided excellent reflection on the skills and processes that leaders need in order to have successful and positive change. The recent news of President Trump detaining or banning Muslims from entering the United States from specific countries has been fascinating from a process and policy standpoint. This is a classic example of “shoot first, ask questions later” leadership. As we have seen, without buy-in from a majority of stakeholders, these hot issues become outright explosive.


In chapter 2 of Policy Studies for Educational Leaders, Fowler explains the Three-Dimensional Model of Power. Basically, Fowler was synthesizing prior research in order to explain how leaders have many options when using their authority.

The immigration situation with President Trump shows that as a leader, he is currently stuck in the first dimension of explicit exercising of power through force. Yes, he is the President, and I do think others should follow orders that he gives. But when it comes to the controversy and outcry, he completely asked for it. Because he didn’t build the coalition of support, didn’t create an environment that was ready for this change, and didn’t make a case for why this was needed, his actions have caused the unnecessary disruptions. Regardless of whether you are republican or democrat, or whether you agree with the President on the immigration issue or not, it is in our human nature to want to feel that our viewpoints were taken into account when decisions were made.

He made the bed, now he has to sleep in it. I feel like I’ve made that bed before as a leader and it was really uncomfortable. I ended up tossing and turning all night I woke up feeling exhausted and defeated. I’ve made the mistake of force-feeding policies in school only to realize that these were not created with a committee of stakeholders, nor were they fully explained. Many times they weren’t even really needed.

In our school division, we have been trained in Baldrige in Education techniques of continuous improvement. These have been vital in providing tools for leaders to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice (and most importantly feel that their input was used). These structures and processes give a system to tough decisions so that it’s not about you as the leader and what you want, but instead about how best can the group determine the proper outcome. Granted,  for these structures to work, you have to actually care about what your stakeholders want…

This reflection made me renew my efforts in considering the processes I use to make decisions. Not everything can be a vote, nor should it. Tough decisions do have to be made. But to the extent possible, I need to ensure that my stakeholders of staff, students, parents, and community feel that they have input into decisions that are made in our school. That’s right. Because it’s our school, not my school.