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Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail

First Edition
  • Michael Fullan - Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc., Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada

A Joint Publication With the Ontario Principals' Council and the B.C. Principals' and Vice Principals' Association

November 2018 | 160 pages | Corwin

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Break the cycle of surface-level change and failure

How do leaders become clearer as complexity increases? We live in a world where decisions require judgment, getting people on board, drawing on local knowledge, ingenuity, and commitment. As leaders, how do you get beneath surface-level change to tackle complex challenges with depth and clarity.

Nuance is the answer.

Michael Fullan returns with an eminently readable, compelling and practical guide on the three habits of nuance: joint determination, adaptability, and culture-based accountability. Learn how you can:

·         Combine the power of networks and humanity to get to desired destinations.

·         Embrace complexity and understand context to develop better judgment

·         Change the culture of your organization to harness the forces of nuance.

·         Develop quality change that sticks

With tons of examples and case studies of this book makes explicit the hidden habits and mind frames of leaders who deliver lasting change.

Introduction: Making the World Go Round
Chapter 1. The Nature and Need for Nuance
Nuance: A Subtle Difference in or Shade of Meaning, Expression, or Sound

Surfacers vs. Nuancers

Leonardo da Vinci: The Patron Saint of Nuance

Nuance: Never More Needed Than Now

The Nature of Nuanced Leadership

The Nuanced Leadership Framework

Chapter 2. Jointly Determined Change: Be Right at the End of the Meeting
The Prevalence of Bad Leadership

Joint Determination

Case Example One: The Problem of Declining Levels of Principal Well-Being

Case Example Two: Districtwide Transformation to “Deep Learning”

Case Example Three: School Turnaround

Case Example Four: Turning Around Persistently Failing Schools

Integrative Leadership

Chapter 3. Adaptability: Learn and Lead in Equal Measure
Case Example Five: Rescuing Education From Technology

Case Example Six: The Toronto District School Board

Case Example Seven: Shattering Inequity

Case Example Eight: Global Initiative in Deep Learning


Chapter 4. Culture-Based Accountability: Trust and Interact
The Fruitless Pursuit of Top-Down Accountability

Ingredients of Culture-Based Accountability

1. Use the Group to Change the Group

2. Precision Over Prescription

3. Feedback: Collaboration, Candor, and Autonomy

4. Trust and Interact vs. Trust but Verify

5. See the Forest and the Trees

6. Accountability as Culture

Examples of Natural Accountability Linked to Results

Case Example Nine: Strengthening Whole System Accountability

Case Example Ten: Integrating Accountability and Improvement

Culture Counts

Chapter 5. Nuanced Leaders and the World
More Macro

Learners and Change Agents: Attack Inequity and Thrive on Every Level

Being and Becoming a Nuanced Leader

About the Author

Nuance is Fullan at his impressive best—enabling leaders to see what was under their nose with sharp action-oriented clarity. Contexts—of people, time, and place—are such key factors in managing change and here he uncovers the subtlety of “nuance,” which is the essential bedfellow of “judgment” without which disaster will threaten any leader. Wise system leaders will buy a copy for all their school leaders and keep a copy for themselves.

Tim Brighouse, England

Discover the subtle power of nuance leadership and get dramatic new results. A courageous and timely book that goes to the heart of our  complex leadership times. Why do some leaders get extraordinary results while others, ostensibly doing the same things, simply replicate existing patterns? Blending experience and uncommon intellectual acuity, Fullan explains both the key connected dimensions and the exceptional leverage of nuance.

Brendan Spillane, Leadership Consultant in Sports, Business, and Education

I continue to be in awe that Michael Fullan is able to describe and explain so clearly the kind of leadership I am intuitively trying to do. Nobody else I have ever read can do this as well as he does. Fullan, more than anyone else, has given me the language for my leadership over the years.

Steve Munby, Former CEO of National College for School Leadership, England

Nuance is a powerful call for a different type of leadership—one that rejects the quick fixes, oppositional thinking, and superficial innovations that make no lasting impact on our most pressing and complex  educational problems. In Nuance, Fullan provides a richly illustrated account of how nuanced leadership embraces complexity and integrates competing forces in ways that foster deep understanding, collaborative learning and  accountability, and sustainable rather than superficial solutions. It’s not a recipe; it’s an inspiration and a call to action.

Viviane Robinson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus
University of Auckland, New Zealand

If you have been waiting to have your thinking on leadership provoked once again, Michael Fullan’s latest book will not disappoint you. Nuance raises the bar and challenges thinking about leadership while  providing those willing to work for it the concrete examples, actions, and steps  necessary to do so. As followers of his work have come to expect, in Nuance,  Fullan “leads from what he has learned” and artfully weaves together complex ideas into a pattern that accomplishes the “simplexity” that makes the seemingly impossible become possible.

Laura Schwalm, Senior Partner
California Education Partners

I have to say that reading this manuscript was like looking in the mirror and seeing something of myself that I hadn’t noticed before, or valued before, or even been able to put language to. I feel simultaneously com-forted by what [Fullan has] written in that I feel validated and understood and even a bit more hopeful about myself, but it has also left me hungry for more.

Marie-Claire Bretherton, Executive Head Teacher
Kyra Teaching School, England

I get what [Fullan is] saying about nuance. I mean there are 5, 10, 15  different ways to do something; depending on a particular context, it’s going to have a different result. I think [Fullan’s] on to something really important. [This work] actually helped me get my head around what I have been doing with everyone in the Toronto District School Board.

John Malloy, Director
Toronto District School Board

In 'Nuance', Michael Fullan explores the characteristics of good leadership, with exemplification that is applicable across a range of contexts. Useful for doctoral candidates focussing on leadership.

Dr Louise Campbell
School of Education & Social Work, Dundee University
September 7, 2019

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1 - Nuance

For instructors

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