Friday, May 29, 2015

The Beta Leader

This post is for the Alpha Leader (and aspiring Alpha Leaders) of organizations.  By “Alpha” I am not talking in terms of personality, but in terms of hierarchy.  In school systems there are two Alpha Leaders: The Superintendent and The Principal.  Think Secretary of the Navy (Superintendent) and the Ship Captains (Principals).

If the organization is small enough, the leader can run the organization by personality alone.  At the district level, the tipping point where personality isn’t enough is around 5 campuses.  At the campus level, the tipping point is around 650 students. 

When the organization is on the plus side of the first size break the Alpha leader has to lead through a system.  A system that drives staff actions and a system that provides timely monitoring information. A good alpha leader and good system can be effective up until the next size break which is around 8 campuses at the district level and around 1,500 students at the campus level.  At that point the Alpha Leader needs an effective Beta Leader, the #2. 

It has been my observation that the most effective large school organizations have a #2 that rivals the competence and confidence of the #1.  And it is this effective team that allows the organization flourish.  The #1 focuses on the big picture and the organization’s interactions with the larger world. The #2 focuses on making sure the machine works, daily, towards achieving big picture goals.  When Mr./Ms. Outside is teamed with the right Mr./Ms. Inside, great things, at scale, are achievable.

This is so important that I counsel Principals that are considering new districts to look at the #2 closely before making any decisions.

All of this to make this point, if you are the Alpha Leader of a large entity, this one hire will make or break you. In fact, I know one big district superintendent who only hires superintendents as his deputy. Pick your #2 with care. 

Think. Work. Achieve.
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