Who Over What

I have read over the years quite a bit of theory on organizational leadership.  Two general shrifts of thought seem to coalesce around the ideas of either Who or What.  Let me explain.

The “What” paradigm is often displayed in charts and outlines in order to show to what needs to be done.  There are lots of discussions about roles, responsibilities, oversight, and generally how things get “done.”  Efficiency is high on the list of desirable traits for this paradigm.  Having a “plan” is key.  And I believe this is quite necessary, but secondary to the other possible paradigm.

The “Who” paradigm emphasizes having the right people.  It focuses on who is around the table and how the synergy of their combined talents and skills can passionately move the organization in a missional direction.  Rather than specifically speaking to action, its focus tends to be more on appetite and passion.

The general notion is something like this:  if you get the right kind of people around the table, the right things will happen.

For a school, this seems intuitive and key, though somewhat uncommon.  Rather than finding the right “degrees” to implement specific “curriculum” I favor finding people who will self-replicate.  Of course, again, the first paradigm is not forgotten – there ought to be roles, responsibilities, curriculum, etc., but all that seems quite secondary to who it is that is implementing those “whats.”

So bringing this down to the here and now, a new leader of a school in particular is seeking to first get to know the passions and appetites of his faculty:

  • How do they integrate their lives?  or What is the relationship in their lives between Faith and Reason?
  • What are they reading?
  • Are they currently active as learners?
  • Can they and do they have a writing/thinking life, outside the requirements of their assigned teaching?
  • Do they teach “for free” i.e., Sunday School, civic involvement, Boy Scouts, etc.?

This will all begin placing your faculty on a continuum scale of say 1-10, with a “1” being someone who does none of the above and a “10” blowing the charts off everything above.  Once you know what you have, you then can begin working with each of them in turn to see if there can be movement upward on the scale.


Your “10” if you are blessed to have one, should simply be made into a discipler.  If they love to teach, then they will love to teach others to teach.  But you must work to build a place where “10” is the goal and enough resources of time, rest, love, peace, safety, etc. are in place to encourage all toward that goal.  But of course the tougher assignment for you is to see if the “1-4’s” are willing to move.  Some will just not have the appetite, especially if they are a 1-2.  With no interest, movement is tough.  Perhaps they would be happier somewhere else.  But remember, students become what they behold – your students are becoming that 1 or 2 level teacher.  Sure, the next year they might get an 8, and be blessed, but what if several of your students themselves become 1’s and 2’s while beholding that one poor teacher of yours?  Just a little bit of cancer is life threatening.  And don’t ever underestimate the power a “1” can have on your 4-6’s.

Place the Who over the What, always.



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