August 6, 2020



Leadership is Everyone’s Business

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


In preparing for my first online graduate class, I reflected on how to build connection, community, and curriculum. I thought about how leadership is a journey and we’re not on that journey alone. Leaders work with others to make dreams reality. Sounds corny, right? But it’s true. Leaders see, inspire, and achieve. Leaders develop the kinds of relationships that allow them to guide others  to accomplish extraordinary things in business, religion, sports, music and education.” I’ve pulled out a few fundamentals to leadership as I practice it.


3 Big Ideas

      1. Leadership development is self-development where the best leaders are the best learners. In Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality, How I Play he describes the continual need to implement something new into his game to make it better. He would see something and implement it right away. He never cared about missing or looking bad because he always kept his end result in mind, and by the way he missed few shots and didn’t look bad.  Kobe performed rigorous workouts to build his strength and agility. He studied minute details of game of basketball to learn what to integrate. He watched, studied, and asked questions. Bryant trained his mind to enhance concentration. He had mentors and people he looked up to in the game. He learned from them by asking “a ton of questions,” remarked coach Phil Jackson. His passion and curiosity for basketball can be applied to our work in schools and to life in general. My take-aways from Mamba Mentality, How I Play:  
        • Find mentors to learn from and ask them “a ton of questions.” Challenging others to clarify their thinking can lead to greater introspection for you, ultimately leading to improvement.
        • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes while you’re learning to improve your game.
        • Observe, study, read and learn to be better at leading.

        See Lewis Howes’ video interview with Kobe that captures the essence of the Mamba mentality.

      2. Leadership is an aspirational ambition and a choice. As leaders, we are always striving to improve ourselves and others and choosing whether to behave in ways that are consistent with our core values. We can choose to keep our eyes on the future while working on today’s challenges. We can choose to treat people with dignity and respect, regardless of how we are treated. We can choose to practice the Mamba mentality and know we will make some mistakes along the way.  Aspirational ambitions are created to stretch your team. John F. Kennedy explains the essence of aspirational ambition in his speech announcing the challenge to reach the moon, saying, “We don’t do it because it is easy. We do it because it is hard….we do it because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” Now, that is the purpose of an aspirational ambition.  A statement by Neal Nickerson, one of my graduate professors at the University of Minnesota, makes me reflect on those leaders who taught me what to do and those from whom I learned what not to do. I learned much from both. It goes something like this, “We don’t have a lot of say over who will lead us, but we have a lot of say over who we will follow.” Hmm. See Mukesh Gupta’s incredible LinkedIn post; in it you can hear JFK’s moon speech. Watch Rita Pierson’s Every Kid Needs a Champion” TedTalk to catch some awesome pearls of wisdom for your opening of school faculty meetings!     
      3. Leadership is about relationship and is everyone’s business. The solutions to  today’s problems require the engaged hearts, minds, and talents of everyone. Leaders seek to improve, enhance, and increase the relationships among those we lead and those who choose to follow. The relationship might be one-to-one or one-to-many, but it’s always a relationship. Like any relationship, they are founded on trust, openness, honesty, and credibility. And like any relationship, they require maintenance upkeep to keep strong. You will find some reminders at these three sites:


“Good coaches tell you where the fish are; great coaches
teach you how to find them.”
– Kobe Bryant


“It is important that the group believe in both the leader and the aspiration.
Unless this happens, the group never achieves significant results.”

– Mukesh Gupta


1 Question

When you think about how you could do a better job at leadership self-development, what might be your focus?



About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.


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