Habits of Highly Effective Schools

On a dark Wednesday afternoon in late November, when most of the school had left for the long four-day weekend, I remained behind on the campus with 25 other members of the Everyday Leadership Class. Although our school had recently received some press attention in the local newspaper as a result of expansion options within the FIS Master Plan, I was using our planning process as a case study for effective leadership.

As the basis for our discussion, I was using Stephen Covey’s classic work Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The first habit we discussed was “Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood,” which led our school’s leadership to spend a great deal of time listening to students, parents, faculty, community members and design experts when we sought to develop a Master Plan to solve the space issues currently facing the school. The result of this open-minded approach led to a 220-page “scoping report” that considered not only one but actually ten different options for different building sites. The different sites were both on and off our current campus and considered a variety of factors, including the environmental impact of each option.

A second habit we discussed was “Think Win-Win,” which posits the notion that negotiations ending with a “winner” and a “loser” are less effective than an agreement where both parties have their needs met. The ongoing debate of our school’s Master Plan again offered food for thought. Rather than taking an adversarial stand on this issue, FIS has openly communicated with those who expressed concern about expansion plans. Most recently, we met with the Oberursel city officials, the environmentalist group leader and concerned neighbors to seek a solution that would be considered a “win-win” for us all. I believe we all left that discussion with the understanding that solving this complex master planning puzzle is in the best interest of all concerned.

What Covey understood about effective people, and what I hope I conveyed to that class of students awaiting the start of their holiday, is that sound leadership must be based on a foundation of beliefs that act like a compass when making our decisions. Fortunately, FIS has established a clear set of beliefs that include values such as honesty, integrity, respect, open-mindedness, and contributing positively to the environment. While different parties may not always agree, following the ‘high road’ does allow us to be proud of the example we are setting for our students.

Paul M. Fochtman
Head of School

Everyday Leadership  Course Description:

In these challenging and swiftly changing times – and knowing what 21st century skills you must be able to demonstrate in the world beyond school – we believe that a course that focuses on personal and professional leadership is an essential offering for our students to consider. We also know that challenging students’ thinking about leadership and also providing academic credit for the time and learning students give to this important topic can support their college entrance process.

The Everyday Leadership course-work includes specific review of the science and practice of leadership, outside speakers who are leaders in their field, debates based on video clips and an opportunity for practical application of lessons learned. Participation and grade for the course will appear on a student’s official transcript OR may be used as part of Creativity in CAS.

Jim Collins who wrote the book Good to Great says that, “True leadership exists only when people follow when they have the freedom not to.” His view will be placed alongside many others who write about leadership and students will be asked to fully investigate their own views and abilities related to leadership and the values needed to collaborate with and lead others.

The courses uses two key texts: Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Marian Macgregor’s, Everyday Leadership: Attitudes and Actions for Respect and Success.

The FIS course is coordinated by Pete Sinclair and Abel Chavez.

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