Liberating Leadership Capacity…Proud to Share a Great Review

September 11th, 2016

Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom
reviewed by Hollie J. Mackey — August 09, 2016
Title: Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom
Author(s): Linda Lambert, Diane P. Zimmerman, & Mary E. Gardner
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807757519, Pages: 148, Year: 2016
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Liberating Leadership Capacity

Linda Lambert, Diane P. Zimmerman, and Mary E. Gardner’s book Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom presents a new concept of leadership based on establishing democratic interactions, engaging constructivist learning, and developing leadership capacity in school communities. The authors propose liberating leadership capacity as the foundation for effective school reform. This is the process of schools as organizations fully developing into constructivist learning organizations where: participation in professional reciprocal learning is high, healthy collaboration is a normative component of work, professional knowledge is generated from within, and school leaders develop site level strategies for systemic change that arise from practice. The authors believe leadership paradigms that structure leadership through top down models characterized by solo authoritarian type leaders are ineffective in nested sociopolitical organizations like schools where complex challenges require more than traditional forms of leadership can deliver. This volume suggests coupling constructivist leadership focusing on critical thinking and problem solving with developing leadership capacity to provide the necessary components for school leadership aligned with the goals of a democratic education system.

Lambert, Zimmerman, and Gardner neither disregard the complex challenges school leaders face nor dismiss the contributions of other leadership scholars. They instead submit that these challenges have not been thoroughly addressed through previous scholarship. As Andy Hargreaves states in the foreword:

Our school systems are not being challenged to address these more complex needs and sophisticated goals . . . More sophisticated learning requires more sophisticated teaching and leadership. Complex professional judgments cannot be prescribed, standardized, or driven by data . . . Linear top-down leadership may work for a short time for simple outcomes, but more sophisticated learning needs to be accompanied by more sophisticated leadership. (p. x)

Chapter One, “Leadership Redesigned,” provides an overview of leadership traditions in educational administration over the past 25 years and “offers a new definition of the concept” (p. 1) of leadership. The primary difference between the traditional model and the authors’ concept is that the former tends to rely on a few authoritarian figures within a building. The authors note the problems with this authoritarian style of leadership by stating, “[t]he uses of authority present a dangerous dilemma: a codependency, or dominance, sure to steer in unhelpful directions, away from a complex notion of leadership capable of more fully democratizing and building community capacities” (p. 5). The chapter outlines the evolution of thought regarding the effectiveness of authoritarian leadership and the shift to a more democratic school leadership approach. The authors conclude the chapter by building on their original work regarding constructivist leadership and redefining it as “fostering capacity through the complex, dynamic processes of purposeful, reciprocal learning” (p. 10) and claiming “how leadership is defined makes all the difference in how people participate” (p. 17).

Chapter Two, “Fostering Leadership Capacity,” introduces the social dynamic of capacity building on the premise that this type of building allows “a group of people to engage in and solve their own problems” (p. 21) and is a “function of leadership” (p. 22). The authors assess leadership capacity based on the skillfulness of leading and breadth of participation within a school resulting in four archetypes. They describe the typical skill and participation in each of these archetypes and present images depicting both the archetype matrix and authority distribution. They also discuss challenges arising with implementing interventions in each of the archetype locations and provide recommendations for overcoming them. The chapter concludes with the authors advocating for developing reciprocal and collaborative student and parent leadership capacities to work in partnership with schools.

Chapter Three, “Designing Professional Learning Cultures,” describes “designs, frameworks, and components for professional learning in high leadership capacity organizations” (p. 42). The chapter begins by advocating new professional learning designs when professional development is a reciprocal and continuous process for all members of the school community. The authors discuss the importance of including organized structural frameworks for learning cultures and stress: increasing levels of participation, developing skills, engaging in reflection, and holding meaningful dialogue. The chapter identifies specific leadership skills and actions “central to the movement from one archetype to another on the road to high leadership capacity” (p. 54) and advises leaders to look to and learn from exemplary programs.

Chapter Four, “Collaborative Dimensions of Leadership,” builds on the previous chapter by offering “four collaborative dimensions of leadership” (p. 65) and provides structure for facilitating the work of sustainable and collaborative learning communities. This includes: “(1) structuring efficient protocols for participation; (2) setting standards and working agreements for collaboration; (3) embedding the linguistics for listening into conversations; and (4) facilitating conversational flows” (p. 65). The authors discuss the importance of including this structure and note effective meetings that “create a sense of well-being and collective efficacy” (p. 82).

Chapter Five, “Democratization of Knowledge,” discusses the concept of knowledge and suggests that, “[r]econceptualizing knowledge flattens the hierarchy of knowledge production” (p. 88). The authors share three types of knowledge: knowledge-for-practice, knowledge-in-practice, and knowledge-of-practice and discuss their value as they apply to democratic learning communities. This chapter illustrates the differences in hierarchical structures between low and high leadership capacity schools where high capacity ones tend to have “flatter hierarchies [where] communities engage in systematic reflection in which knowledge is constructed, organized, and networked” (p. 100).

Chapter Six, “Creating Capacity for Systems Change,” considers why change is so difficult in schools. The authors believe that schools are nested within other systems and “[c]onstructivist change processes arise from practice, rather than being imposed on practice” (p. 103). Several U.S. examples illustrate how different schools use the concepts from Chapters Two through Five to move from low to high leadership capacity organizations. The authors also provide international examples where the same concepts are successfully applied and conclude “[a]n array of designs and principles awaits those who are committed to building democratic societies, thus liberating leadership capacity in every learner and learning community” (p. 122).


What sets Liberating Leadership Capacity apart from similar books is that it builds on constructivist leadership by adding developing leadership capacity including effective aspects of multiple leadership models such as transformational leadership, distributed leadership, sustainable leadership, and leadership for social justice. It suggests incorporating some of the most effective research based strategies for improving the learning climate at the school level and provides a strong rationale for how all of the components fit together. These two elements combined make it a relatively non-controversial book for use in leadership preparation programs. The authors’ key strength is that they write the book in easily accessible language and acknowledge a range of skills from which each school leader would start coupled with a range of participation across school sites. They also provide specific guidance for school leaders at all levels so no one would be left questioning how to begin liberating leadership capacity within their own schools once they finish reading the book.

School leaders might find the proposed strategies unrealistic given the policy constraints of unchallenged systems that are also nested within their own schools. The authors provide examples of schools that have realized success using these strategies, however these continue to be the exception and not the rule. The success stories within Liberating Leadership Capacity often involve other factors and conditions allowing for leadership to engage in an overhaul as a last step before closure.

Despite being well written, Liberating Leadership Capacity also requires more than one reading. At first glance it is a straightforward guide for improving educational organizations through developing leadership capacity. The authors also ask much deeper questions that cannot be ignored by educational scholars, policymakers, or practitioners. The epilogue speaks of pathways to educational wisdom and cues the reader to the bigger picture: scholarship does not affect organizational change that has meaningful consequence on the lived experiences of children and communities, it is instead achieved through practice. Lambert, Zimmerman, and Gardner illustrate the ways in which leadership theory might be translated into practice for the purpose of facilitating human flourishing.

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The Justine Trilogy: the movies!

June 27th, 2016

Imagine a major earthquake in Cairo, anthropologist Justine buried alive, an ancient diary tumbling from the walls of a crypt. These are the promises of a major motion picture based on The Cairo Codex. In The Italian Letters, another ancient crypt
reveals the origin of Italians and the genealogy of the Virgin Mary. In a Rapture of Ravens, an avalanche in Taos, New Mexico, unearths and unravels the migration patterns of the Anasazi. Travel full circle back to the the Egyptian revolution and the faith of Justine’s lover. A gold mine for today’s special effects, these historical novels are unclose and personal with the struggle of today as well…the Muslim Brotherhood, religious conflict, challenging the truths of modern civilization.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Reese Witherspoon–where are you?

Posted in A Rapture of Ravens, D.H. Lawrence, Egypt, Etruscans, Fiction, genealogy, history, Italian Letters, motion pictures, Taos, The Justine Trilogy | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

The Dangerous Future of a Junior High Boy

June 21st, 2016

There are few places as fertile as junior high schools in which to study arrested development. As a former junior high principal, it is pleasurable to recall those lovely young teenagers who are emerging into adulthood: the quiet, nerdy boys who loved science and technology; the junior athlete; the spirited student leader who always had the next new idea; the dreamy young girl writing poetry on her peachy. It was as though a parade of human development was unfolding before my eyes.
Before I went into education, I was a juvenile probation officer for a couple of years. This is when I first met young boys—and a few girls— who struggled with their own confused identity, who were either arrested in their development, or worse, were hard core enough to grow into adulthood as the same narcissistic bullies they were in junior high.
As a principal, these kids were easy to recognize once again. Fortunately, they were few in number. Never responsible for their own damaging behavior, when conflict occurred, blame was invariably attributed to others. They could do no wrong, nor did they harbor regrets. When asked to apologize, they might say, “He started it first. The teacher is stupid. I’ve got nothing to apologize for.” Later, the claim would become, “I never apologize.”
In public, these boys appeared to feel themselves superior to others. Contemptuous and quick to anger, their talk about others was often arrogant and condescending, contrasting their own relative perfection with the limitations of others. Others are “stupid,” “liars” or “crooked.” Worse yet, the failure of others may be explained by difference: they are girls, Blacks, Latinos, handicapped. In order to maintain their fragile sense of self, these young men consider one form of transaction essential: if you attack me, I must attack you.
Fortunately, as most individuals mature, they learn to rise about the fray, to take the high road, a road that is formed by values and nobler aspirations. But not for these young men, for they have to “even the score” each time. Since they hold grudges, they assume that others do too. These bullies use strength to hurt or intimidate those viewed as inferior or weaker.
Yet at the heart of all of this bravado is fear. Fear of being discovered, fear of not being enough, fear of not being loved. I often looked upon these young boys with compassion, sometimes a sense of failure, questioning: how can I reach him, redirect his life? There is hope. At the age of 12, a sensitive teacher or mentor can find the frightened child beneath and alter his future.
However, if these attributes and fears continue into adulthood, these individuals are not going to change. Further, if one of these men acquires wealth, power and the bully pulpit, he becomes a danger to those around him. Some may fool themselves into thinking his narcissistic outbursts can be moderated and controlled, shaped by history and institutions and law. Think again. The world is in for irretrievable damage.

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Creative Confluence…what is it?

April 5th, 2016

When I shifted from non-fiction to fiction 10 years ago, I was convinced that I needed to start with a clean slate; in other words, not attempt both at the same time–as though they were separate streams of consciousness. My colleague and I had not quite finished Women’s Ways of Leading at the time, but we rushed to finish. After all, in fiction there is surprise, and scenes, and tension, conflict and sex, while in non-fiction…few of the previous approaches are usually present.

When my colleague Mary recently said that my non-fiction (in a new text entitled Liberating Leadership Capacity) had benefited from the writing of The Justine Trilogy, well, I had to reexamine my assumptions. Was there more of a confluence than I imagined? I am using “confluence” here to mean the processes of merging and emerging. This is what I notice: language flows more easily, like rivers coming together; language choice is more poetic; cognitive dissonance echoes tension; touches of mystery and romance provide glimpses into wisdom.

Would I advise dappling in fiction and non-fiction at the same time? Sure–it’s a fertile playground. An adventure. Camus might call it absurdism, but writers have often created reciprocity between and among novels and essays.

We are off to Washington, D. C. for the release of the new text–then to New York to see our granddaughter and a few plays….

Posted in Book Tour, creativity, Fiction, Leadership Capacity, non-fiction, shifting genres, The Justine Trilogy, writing | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

Liberating Leadership Capacity-Released!

April 3rd, 2016

My colleagues and I will be signing our new text at the American Educational
Research Association in Washington, D. C., Sunday, April 10. The subtitle, Pathways
to Educational Wisdom captures those notions about leadership that transcend
usual practice to answer this question: What insights and epiphanies lead us
beyond the horizon of ordinary into the realm of wisdom?

Posted in Book Tour, Constructivist Leadership, creativity, Education, imagination, Leadership, Leadership Capacity, non-fiction | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

Two Weeks from Today: The Release of a New Leadership Book

March 17th, 2016

Hi and happy St. Patrick’s Day,
On April 1, Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom will be released. Published by Teachers College Press at Columbia University, and co-authored with Diane Zimmerman and Mary Gardner, this book is my 8th book on leadership. This venture into leadership has been a thrilling journey as it has afforded an opportunity to combine and reposition my thoughts on Constructivist Leadership and Leadership Capacity. Andy Hargreaves has written the Foreword.
On April 10 at 12:30 at the AERA booth # 401, Convention Center, Washington D. C., the authors will sign the book that can be purchased at 20% off. Whether you are working in the field of leadership formally, or curious about the direction of the field, you will find this book full of stories, complexity science, international successes and conclusions on the emergence of wisdom.
Coming tomorrow: Creative Confluence.
Liberating Leadership Capacity

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The Thrill of Taos

June 5th, 2015

Returning to Taos is like returning to a home that never was…meaning that it has always seemed like home, but I didn’t grow up here. However, Morgan and I have spent many, many months here over the past five years—years bringing us into intimate contact with the balmy air that caresses our skin, the full moon rising over the Sangre de Cristo (isn’t there a full moon every night in Taos?), a scattered mosaic of clouds in a big sky over Sacred Mountain, the rich blend of cultures led by the Tiwa of the Taos Pueblo. More than a thousand years of history.

Much has happened in these five years: The D. H. Lawrence Ranch is now open—Kateri Tekakwitha is an authentic Saint—The World Heritage Taos Pueblo and Rancho de Taos Saint Francis Church continue to attract people from all over the world—The Egyptian Revolution took surprising, and not always pleasing, turns—the Taos economy is on the upturn. Tonight, the grandchildren of the original Art Colony founders describe 100 years of creative impulse here. Tomorrow, we hear the story of the 400 years of shared Native-Hispanic-Anglo history. Music is in the air everywhere you turn.

What perspective does time provide? Five years, 100 years, 400 years, a thousand years. A spiral of wisdom that is Taos.

The people of Taos have been so welcoming that the writing of A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos emerged with ease from the minds and hearts of these generous folk. Many of them will gather Friday, June 12th, at 6:30 at the Mabel Dodge Luhan estate for the “world release” party.

Posted in A Rapture of Ravens, Book Tour, D.H. Lawrence, Egypt, Florence, Frieda Lawrence, history, Taos, The Justine Trilogy, writing | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

Book Talks-A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos

May 26th, 2015

World release, Mabel Dodge Luhan Conference Center, Taos,
New Mexico, June 12, 6:00
Private release, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 14, 5:30
Four-Eyed Frog, Gualala, CA, July 4, 4:00
Diesel Books, 5433 College Ave., Oakland, July 9, 6:30
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness, San Francisco, July 10, 7:00
Books, Inc., 865 El Camino Real, #74, Palo Alto, July 30, 7:00
Mendocino Book Gallery, August 21, 7:00
Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA, August 29, 4:00

Want to know more?? E-mail me at

Posted in A Rapture of Ravens, Book Tour, Books Inc., D.H. Lawrence, Fiction, Frieda Lawrence, Taos, The Justine Trilogy | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

Why Taos?

May 4th, 2015

Many know that Taos is a magical, historical, and stunning place. But why set the third novel in The Justine Trilogy there? After all, The Cairo Codex is set in Egypt; The Italian Letters in Italy.

Quite simply, D. H. Lawrence is buried in a little white chapel perched on the side of Lobo Mountain just outside of Taos. While he died of tuberculosis in the south of France in 1930, his wife Frieda’s lover brought his ashes back to Taos in 1936. Now, nearly 80 years later, the Ranch—owned by the University of New Mexico and closed for many years, has reopened.

When anthropologist Justine Jenner discovered letters from Lawrence in her great grandmother’s attic in Italy, she was compelled to follow him, to find out who he really was—and to find what he discovered about himself on the side of Lobo Mountain. In exploring the life of her great grandmother’s lover, Justine discovers herself as well.

One week from today, A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos will be released.

Posted in A Rapture of Ravens, D.H. Lawrence, Fiction, Frieda Lawrence, history, Taos, The Justine Trilogy | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

Serendipity – A Writer’s Journey of Discovery

April 19th, 2015

It all began when, as a young girl, I hid Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence under my mattress (who didn’t?). Women in Love and other Lawrence novels, short stories, and poems followed, keeping my infatuation deep in my consciousness. But it was not until my husband, Morgan, and I wandered into a bookstore in an Etruscan ruin in Italy in the mid-80’s and discovered Etruscan Places that Lawrence became an obsession. His unforgettable perspective on the Etruscans explained the heretofore unexplainable about these mysterious people.

Years passed. After all, I wasn’t a novelist as yet. I was busy with non-fiction writing –then moving in Egypt. Cairo fully captivated us. Old crypts and earthquakes and religious tensions demanded my attention. It was inside the crypt that had allegedly been home to the Holy Family that the first novel in the Justine Trilogy took form.

After giving birth to The Cairo Codex, I discovered that D. H. Lawrence was still waiting in the wings. But it was not until my protagonist Justine climbed into her grandmother’s attic in Fiesole that I found The Italian Letters. I know this may seem strange, but I didn’t know what she would find until old lace began to rise from a trunk untouched for 80 years.

These letters led me into Taos, New Mexico, and A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos… to be released May 12. My life as a writer has been one serendipitous event after another.

Next week: Why Taos?

Posted in A Rapture of Ravens, D.H. Lawrence, Egypt, Etruscans, Fiction, Italian Letters, Italy, Taos, The Justine Trilogy, tombs, Travel, trilogy, writing | No Comments » | Leave a Comment

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