The Business of Educating….5 Ways to Break Through Bureaucratic Barriers

During my many years as an executive in Corporate America, I witnessed all manner of professional bureaucracy and perpetual red tape. These were also the early years of my children’s schooling. Like many parents, my wife or I would often volunteer in their classrooms. It was on those days that I’d gladly remove my work hat filled with corporate politics and bureaucratic barriers to spend an hour per month lost in the land of childish giggles, glue guns and gold stars. The two worlds seemed eons apart at the time, and for me, the classroom was a welcomed reprieve.

Over the years that followed, I would learn from many passionate, dedicated educators just how many bureaucratic barriers can be faced behind the scenes within our school systems. I would learn that those giggles and gold stars were also a reprieve for the educators who often fought all kinds of bureaucratic barriers in going about the business of teaching our youth. Fast forward to today, and I’ve learned even more from Marceta Reilly, long-time educator and co-author of our upcoming book Releasing Leadership Brilliance: Breaking Sound Barriers in Education.

Bureaucracy is defined as a large, formal, secondary organization characterized by a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labor, explicit rules, and impersonal interactions between its members. In theory, it was designed to make things easier. But often this is not the case. So, how do you to break the barriers of outdated structures and processes within our current educational system and earn your gold star as an educator?

Here are 5 ways:

  1. Lead with your strengths: Administrators, faculty, and staff all contribute to creating an optimal learning experience for students. In order to transform how educators provide leadership in our schools and ultimately our school system, there has to be a focus on leading with your strengths and by example.
  2. Influence with authenticity: Show up as authentic, and have a priority of building relationships and trust with staff, students, parents and administrators. When your authenticity is apparent, you’d be surprised at your degree of influence on all levels.
  3. Work well with others: Provide the “thrust” for teams to move forward and make a difference. It most often takes teamwork to break bureaucratic barriers. Don’t underestimate the power of collective effort. Be the one to bring everyone together to affect change.
  4. Remember your call: Breaking barriers is rarely easy, but when you remember the higher purpose of positively impacting a generation, it will always be worth it. Remembering what you are fighting for will renew your courage and patience in breaking through old bureaucracy.
  5. Have the conversation: Everything starts with a conversation, including breaking through centuries-old bureaucratic barriers. Using coaching conversations, a school leader can change the climate, culture and commitment within the school and school system.

Remember to change yourself first, and then change the system that you are in. You were called to this field for a reason, so release your leadership brilliance and kick down any barrier in your way.

References: Bailey, Simon T., and Reilly, Marceta F. Releasing Leadership Brilliance: Breaking Sound Barriers in Education. Corwin Press: in production.

Boundless. “Bureaucratization of Schools.” Boundless Sociology Boundless, 20 Sep. 2016.