I was at a planning meeting for the Day School Leadership Training Institute, a program for upcoming or new Heads of Jewish Day Schools, where I am a mentor. We were doing some ‘get to know you’ questions, and one of them was, “What book have you read more than once?”. The person who chose it is great at re-reading important books. I have less patience, and have a very short list. So it was a bit ironic when I asked that same person for a book recommendation about a particular question I had, and she recommended a book I’d read five or six years ago. I just re-read the book, and although I remember enjoying it and finding it insightful at the time, this second read, six years into my headship, made a much greater impact.
Ten Lessons in Leadership and Learning by John D’Auria is exactly what it purports to be. Each chapter discusses a different leadership lesson in the context of schools, though much of it could be equally applicable to any other leadership context. The chapters are short, clear, without jargon, and insightful. One of my favourite is the one he titles, “Courageously addresses nondiscussables,” a challenge of leadership if there ever was one.
Reading a book like this a second time, years into a leadership role, I saw myself and my experiences in the goals and challenges he describes, whereas five or six years ago they were more of an abstraction. D’Auria does a great job of getting inside the nexus between the emotional and cognitive challenges that go along with leadership. For example, the need to muster ‘courage’ to face a difficult conversation, the need to let go of blaming others and own the path forward, or developing empathy as a path to build trust.
Why ten and not nine or eleven? I’ve never known how people decide on the length of their list of lessons, though I have no reason to quibble with D’Auria. All the lessons were thoughtful, helpful and insightful. They are lessons worth learning.