Several years ago, I made a really bad assumption as a school leader. I assumed that the purpose and vision we all aspired to was understood uniformly, and therefore putting the pedal to the metal was the next logical step. It was not.
What I came to learn was that the people in an organization need to feel valued before the vision can become fully realized. I share more about this epic failure (and a few other assumptions I've made along the way) in my book Renegade Leadership. Just last week I was reminded of the perils we experience when we make assumptions.
I shared a theory in a recent blog post, "What if Simon Sinek was Wrong?" The Donut Theory elevated the importance of relationships and an individual's strengths to the same level as organizational purpose.
My basic premise was that "who" we are serving is just as important as "why" we are leading. (If you haven't had a chance to read the blog post or see the Donut Theory graphics yet just click HERE.) Suffice it to say that not everyone agreed with me, and a healthy dialogue ensued.
As feedback from the blog post steadily streamed in on Twitter and Voxer, I continued to listen. I read comments on the blog post with the goal of gleaning new perspective. Much of the feedback was agreeable, but it also unearthed some of the assumptions we all have about leadership, vision, and people. It also prompted educators (including myself) to reread and research all things Simon Sinek.
I noticed that avid Sinek fans (a group in which I also affectionately belong) began making assumptions about what starting with "why" really means. As I listened to the nuanced explanations and varying interpretations of how relationships and people did (or did not) fit into Sinek's Golden Circle, I was reminded of something.
Making assumptions about anything eventually leads to diminished results. (e.g. unrealized relational capacity, loss of clarity, or incongruency in execution.) Furthermore, making assumptions about the importance of people in this human endeavor we are engaged in is is an impediment to meaningful and sustained change. Again, this is my truth and it may be different than your experience.
So why does this matter?
Leaders are ultimately responsible for every single person they serve. Every student matters. Every educator matters. Every person in the community matters. We cannot assume this is implied when we start with "why."
When we are clear on the big things the little things tend to fall into place. True leadership traction results when every member of the organization understands who they are serving, why they are serving, where they are going, and how they will get there.
Whether you start with "why," lead with "who," or a combination of "person and purpose"...make sure you assume nothing. You'll be glad you did. (Or didn't.)