Leading Innovation = Vulnerability

I am excited about the future of education in our province. The new Ministerial Order on student learning and the work taking place around Inspiring Education and Curriculum Redesign means that our schools will see us focusing on helping our students develop these competencies:


This transformation of education will require courageous leaders in classrooms, schools, and districts who are ready to do things differently, explore new possibilities and risk making mistakes – not an easy thing to do in the world of public education. However, leading change, growth and innovation require that we step out of our safe, comfortable traditions and recognize that we need to be vulnerable in order to learn and grow together.

In his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes,

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable…It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail. It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

Brene Brown writes about vulnerability in her book Daring Greatly .Brown shares how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. She describes how successful leaders get their people to engage and take ownership not by telling them to do something but by letting them come into the idea in a purpose-led way. Brown states that the job of the leader is to create the space for others to perform. This shift is from “having the best idea or problem-solving” to “being the best leader of people”. It’s a shift from controlling to engaging with vulnerability – taking risks and cultivating trust.

Brown shares that the way to develop an innovative “daring greatly” culture is to make the organization a place where honest, constructive, and engaged feedback is valued.  Brown states:

Where there is no feedback, there is no transformative change. When we don’t talk to the people we’re leading about their strengths and their opportunities for growth, they begin to question their contributions and our commitment. Disengagement follows.

Brown shares that this kind of culture is difficult to create, but not impossible. She suggests that feedback and growth thrive in a culture where the goal is not “getting comfortable with hard conversations” but normalizing discomfort. If leaders expect real learning, critical thinking and change, then discomfort should be normalized: “We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so it’s going to happen here – you’re going to feel that way. We want you to know that it’s normal and it’s an expectation here. You’re not alone and we ask that you stay open and lean into it.”

The work we have ahead of us as we transform education in our province is going to involve risk taking, being open and vulnerable to making mistakes in order to grow and learn. Our schools will need to be places where trust is the foundation, where instructional practice is discussed and where individuals understand that everyone is a learner and needs to be open to giving and receiving feedback to move forward. It will be uncomfortable – but if it isn’t, then what are we really learning? What are we really changing?



  1. Michelle says:

    Thanks for sharing! I Love what Brene has to say about Daring Greatly and your connection to Seth Godin resonates with me.

  2. Tone Sandvik says:

    Great blog-post! Taking risks by leaving the comfort zone is scary for so many professional educators, both inside and outside of classrooms – and yet we need all these courageous people to do so. Developing cultures were educators have enough self esteem to be willing to make mistakes for their own learning is hard work but so worth while. One step at the time! The Global Classroom is moving in this direction – best of luck to us all.
    Tone Sandvik, Principal at Hov Lower Sec. School, Norway

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