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Kevin J. Ruth
Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania
Interests: International education, ndependent education, sustainable farming, wine, cultures, languages, travel
Recent Activity
Luke Johnson's column in yesterday's Financial Times (6 November 2013) focused on the need for founders (of an enterprise) to apply grit in order to find success, when the going gets tough. After all, as Johnson says, "On certain days business can feel like a war of attrition. [...] It could be argued that struggle is at the heart of enterprise." He goes on to state that "any entrepreneur should be good at coping with the stress that inevitably arises from such conflict and striving." In schools, I'm sure that, if asked, we could provide a kind of Top 10... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2013 at Introit
Some twenty years ago, David Swensen's thinking on diversification changed how Yale invested its endowment. As John Authers points out in this weekend's (October 26-27, 2013) Financial TImes, "Mr Swensen argued that he was most likely to find value away from the public markets. [...] He moved out of bonds and cash, and into hedge funds, private equity and real assets such as forestry. Yale now holds about 6 per cent of its assets in US equities. This reaped impressive investment returns for decades, and many endowments imitated it." Authers goes on to illustrate that Yale, like everyone else, lost... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2013 at Introit
I've been thinking recently about idea networks and knowledge networks. An idea network is not the same as a knowledge network. A knowledge network is more akin to a knowledge center, a repository of items that folks wish to search with the intent of finding hard data/info that can be used. It be social, also, because that approach may be useful in locating or identifying existing knowledge. By contrast, an idea network is more of a community consultation space that facilitates/encourages connection and dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds and experiences who are looking to test an idea that they... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2013 at Introit
As I've mentioned before, I simply adore Luke Johnson's column "The entrepreneur" in the Wednesday issue of the Financial Times. Yesterday's column (October 2, 2013) dealt with the need for leaders to manage their time as well as their staff. His premise is that "leaders need to be as good at time management as they are at staff management. They must understand the difference between urgent and important. And they have to know how to prioritise ruthlessly." This notion of ruthless prioritization struck a chord. It is absolutely essential, as I've learned from experience. Mark Twain's words in that regard... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at Introit
Irrespective of whether we're aware of it, we will leave a legacy in our schools. Although this thought has been on my mind for some time, I was catalyzed by a great article on this very topic in Rotman Management (a magazine from U. Toronto) this week. The person being interviewed (about legacy thinking) proposed an exercise in which the leader writes down his/her leadership legacy statement. Research by psychologists shows that the act of writing it down makes the leader more cognizant of it, and therefore increases the likelihood that the leader will make it happen. There are five... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2013 at Introit
The phrase "strategic thinker" always makes me smile. Sample question: "Is [enter name here] a strategic thinker?" I wonder what it means? Let me reword that. I wonder what people perceive it to mean? To me, the act of inserting the adjective "strategic" is a pathology, and it's rather rampant in educational circles. We delude ourselves into believing that the insertion somehow alters the state of being of the noun itself, elevating it to some new plane of existence. Strategic thinker. Strategic plan. Strategic management. Strategic staffing. Someone who is designated a thinker is someone who has a very well-developed... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2013 at Introit
Two articles in the current issue of Korn/Ferry Briefings on Talent & Leadership really hit home. Each delves into the value of a liberal arts education as the ideal formative background for leadership. The authors (leaders themselves) and other leaders highlighted/cited have liberal arts backgrounds to which they return constantly as they contemplate strategy, vision, and the development of talent in their organizations. For them, the liberal arts trained them to look at context. Context is everything. Speaking of context, what resonated all the more strongly with me was the context within which these articles were placed. This issue of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2013 at Introit
One of the key markers for school leadership (not just the Head, but anyone who is part of a leadership team) ought to be "learning agility," or the ability to learn quickly, apply those lessons, observe and measure the impact of those lessons, and rethink/adapt/adjust strategy, going forward. What does learning agility require? It requires emotional intelligence, maturity, and resilience. How does one acquire those attributes? They result from experiences that are emotionally-charged and very challenging, often requiring personal sacrifice. That kind of learning "sticks." Not only does it stick, it fundamentally changes people. Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2013 at Introit
The lead article in the most recent issue of The Trustee's Letter (May/June 2013), "Many Views Lead to One Voice," identifies what any board candidate should share in common with the school: "each candidate has to be committed to the school's mission, vision, and strategic plan." What if the strategic plan is bad? Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2013 at Introit
We're all faced with the perennial question of how we might motivate others in our schools. In a recent interview with Karen Christensen (Rotman Magazine, Spring 2013), David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, shares that "they key is to create an atmosphere that promotes Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. We call this the SCARF model." I find the model worthwhile because so many independent schools are positioned to implement it; some already do, without knowing it. Status - "Within the brain, feelings of low status actually provoke the kind of cortisol elevation associated with sleep deprivation and chronic... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2013 at Introit
MIssion does not equal strategy. Your school will want to make certain that its strategy is informed by its mission, i.e. that it passes through some kind of filter that ensures alignment with mission, but the two terms are not synonymous. For some reason, though, many folks are using the terms as if they were interchangeable. Mission is what you do; strategy is how you accomplish it, relative to your competitors. Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2013 at Introit
Poignant piece in Chief Learning Officer magazine (online version) today. The topic is talent development + learning, and the excerpt is below (it's "business-y" in terms of feel, but the principles apply to schools). Of particular interest to me is the second paragraph. In order to be impactful vis-à-vis strategy, though, schools would benefit from a greater number of folks with broad experience rather than siloed experience. Otherwise, how does a school anticipate needs in the various areas? Professional development shouldn't be just about faculty, it should be about all adult learners in the community...and that would look fairly different... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2013 at Introit
Recently, I started to participate in spinning classes at my local YMCA. I've always been a fan of bicycle racing, especially the Tour de France, because, to me, there is much to be learned about leadership when it comes to cycling. I've discovered these leadership lessons exist even in spinning classes at the Y! For those unfamiliar with such classes, imagine a room full of stationary bikes with an instructor seated on his/her own bike in front of the group, where s/he can control the music, ventilation, and encourage participants by means of a portable microphone. It's a serious calorie... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2013 at Introit
I'm a fan of Andrew Hill's "On Management" weekly column in the Financial Times. This morning, I was delighted to come across his piece on "the hardest innovation." Q: What is the hardest innovation? A: Killing off projects. As anyone in schools knows, it is tremendoulsy challenging to sunset projects that really ought to fade away. Hill states that the struggle involved in persuading any company [school] to stop doing certain things is downright painful. We tend to use nice terms, such as "concentrate our focus" to refer to the notion of stopping a project. His point, quite simply, is... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2013 at Introit
Posted Mar 13, 2013 at Introit
Dr Charles Clark and I co-presented a session, "Rethinking Leadership," at the NAIS 2013 Annual Conference in Philadelphia last week. For those who are looking for the slides or for those who were unable to attend, you can find the SlideRocket presentation below. Most of the slides are image-only, as I use my slides to illustrate a story that I deliver verbally. Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2013 at Introit
Abductive reasoning, i.e., imagining what might be, is something that most schools have never been good at, for years and years. We tend to operate in the camp of deductive and inductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is anathema to us. And so, even as online learning continues to gain traction in the larger K-12 market place, we continue to espouse our traditional business model of ever-increasing tuition for a product ("education") that is delivered (no, I don't like that term, either...) in the same way. As Vasant Dhar, a professor at NYU Stern School of Business, writes in the January 7... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2013 at Introit
Heads Speak for Themselves (January 2013) Every few years, my school conducts a market research survey to better understand what parents seek in their selection of a school for their children. In each and every survey, “safety” appears near or at the top of the list. This is understandable, given all that we read about violence in schools – from bullying and harassment to school shootings. In the first two years of my tenure at my current school, I’ve paid a lot of attention to campus safety. I’ve heightened the security presence at our main entrance; improved the fencing that... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2013 at Introit
Does the chronological résumé hold the same value it once did? I am not convinced. Personally, I think that the traditional résumé serves to obfuscate useful information due to being held hostage by chronological linearity. In other words, potentially useful information is passed over easily because we are trained to look at a resume in a linear fashion. From a left-brained perspective, if you will. So, as a resolution for the New Year, who is willing to craft a contemporary résumé whose sections highlight experience according to skill set(s) rather than chronology? There has to be an aesthetically pleasing way... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2012 at Introit
As the end of the calendar year looms in front of us, I've been reflecting on Will Richardson's inquiry regarding "bold schools" back in January on his blog (Jan. 7, 2012). Will wrote, "We need schools that are bold in their practice right now. And by “bold” I mean schools that make sure their kids pass the test and get “college ready” because, unfortunately, that’s about the only definition of “success” that people want to talk about right now, but also schools that prepare their kids for a world that the tests and the definitions of “readiness” or “achievement” haven’t... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2012 at Introit
Scott Anthony's work in innovation interests me very much. Recently, I've been pondering the notion of "the innovator's paradox," which goes something like this: when they are in a position to innovate, most organizations don't; then, when they find themselves needing to innovate, they cannot do it. Some schools got slammed by the financial crisis | economic downturn; others have continued to muddle along, with a slight decline in enrollment. There is a third group, as well: those schools that have either maintained their enrollment or grown it during the last few years (call it a flight to quality). A... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2012 at Introit
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There are many issues in education that attract our attention, but I'm convinced that "the" issue of our time is that of assessment. Whether it's a question of ERB scores, SAT scores, AP scores, or the like, we as a society are focused intently on the notion of assessment. We need to take a step back and ask ourselves and our communities: "What do we value, and why?" The follow-up question becomes, "How might we measure that?" In short, we would benefit from re-assessing assessment itself. I'm not arguing for no assessment; I'm arguing for assessment that provides us with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2012 at Introit
I don't know about you, but I'm so tired of "producing scholars." I think it's a terribly trite phrase, and I don't think it's what we ought to strive to "produce" in schools. Mind you, I happen to be a scholar of medieval religious theater in (what are today) France and Germany, specifically during the 15th century, and even more specifically in plays that deal with soteriology and the notion of the devil's rights. That's what being a scholar is about: undertaking studies in a special field. It has another meaning, related closely to the original Latin, that is the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2012 at Introit
Many schools are trying to innovate right now, some for good reasons, others for the wrong reasons (e.g., keeping up with the Joneses). In a good-faith effort to show attention to innovation, some schools are creating innovation committees. The problem? Innovation, like good design, is a behavior, not a committee/department. Is one committee going to change behavioral and cultural norms? Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2012 at Introit
Pablo Picasso once said in an interview, regarding computers, "But they are useless. They can only give you answers." Technophile that I am, I am inclined to agree with him, from a pedagogical point of view, when thinking about what skills our graduates need in today's world. We in independent schools need to STOP asking kids to give us answers. Answers are so yesterday. Independent school graduates will be valued because they know what questions to ask. Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2012 at Introit