4 Terrible Values Taught to Leaders

4 Terrible Values Taught to Leaders

The Terrible Values

This post also describes some work detailed in Senge et al’s Schools That Learn. (pp.414ff) 

The author, Charlotte Roberts, draws upon a view of human action that claims we act consistently with 4 basic values

  1. Remain in unilateral control
  2. Maximize winning and minimize losing
  3. Suppress negative feelings
  4. Be as rational as possible
Who is taught these terrible values?

Roberts says that principals are trained to exactly embody these four values.  The booby prize in these values, as she says quoting Chris Argyris who came up with this list,  is that they “block any kind of fruitful learning or change in an organization.” 

Measuring education

Why are these values terrible?


1. If you have to be in control all the time then you can’t accept other people’s contributions and you wind up being the only source of ideas.  Learning organizations are based upon the fundamental idea that everyone has something to contribute and an essential part of the job of the leader of such an organization is to create the climate to bring forth those contributions. 

2. If you maximize winning and minimize losing, you can’t build a team where the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts, because win/lose is by definition a zero sum game. 

3. If you suppress all negative feelings, then you aren’t being real.  Everyone gets angry, anxious, feels grief when things go badly.  Leaders do have to rally the troops and getting bogged down in negativity is a problem, but there’s a lot of distance between being bogged down in negativity and suppressing all negative feelings. 

4. Being rational—isn’t that the goal of all education, the development of the mind?  But anyone who thinks that rationality is all there is to intelligence, learning and success is simply not taking into account the whole person.  Change and learning often comes from some sudden insight, not just from proceeding from a predetermined check list of rational thought processes. 

how to motivate teachers

Where do these terrible values come from?

I think this checklist is related to what I call the “smartest person in the room” syndrome.  (no, that doesn’t actually exist as a diagnosis).  That’s where someone in a position of power works really hard to convince you that they have all the answers. 

There are two instinctive responses to “smartest person in the room syndrome”.  One response is to shut up.  Who wants to argue with the smartest person in the room?  The second response is distrust.  It’s hard to trust someone who is mentally squashing you and is out only to prove how bright they are. 

How to NOT be a successful administrator.

I was really surprised that these four very old fashioned, very male values were being upheld, taught and even experienced as the way school administrators should be. This list is closer to a warning of how not to be a successful administrator of anything, than anything to emulate.  

At CITE, obviously, I have final say, but I regularly defer to my staff who knows more than I do about their individual realms of expertise.  I question them, we go through a process of digging into assertions, but I think I would be a terrible leader if I remained in control all the time, sought to win all confrontations, never expressed a negative feeling or only trusted in rationality and never in mine or others intuition. 

Jared Gellert is the executive director for CITE.

CITE is the Center for Integrated Training and Education . For over 25 years, CITE has and continues to train TEACHERS (Early Childhood, Literacy, Special Ed, Grad Courses, DASA); COUNSELORS (School, Mental Health Masters, Advanced Certificate); and ADMINISTRATORS (SBL, SDL, Public Admin, Online PhD) in all five boroughs of NYC, Yonkers, and Long Island.

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