Permission is not a royal decree …

… and why you need something more powerful anyway.

One word I have been struggling with lately (although I have used it often) is permission. I do believe we need to let people know that it is OK to take risks and try new things, but “permission” just has an air of power and authority in it.

I, as your sovereign and benevolent leader do hereby bequeath unto you my leave to go forth and use thy knowledge of thy wards to design new and hereunto undiscovered learning experiences.

I’ve been looking for an alternative (and less royal) way to help people from the classroom to the boardroom understand that even though they may have permission, they actually need something far more powerful. They need an internal sense of responsibility to continue to grow and improve in service of others. A responsibility to think and act like designers and architects, but instead of funky swivel chairs and functional buildings, its learning experiences and opportunities for their students and each other.

This responsibility also manifests itself in professional learning at all levels. For many, if they leave a professional learning session feeling like they didn’t “get” anything from it, they will tell you it was a waste of time. I have begun asking myself (and others) “If I/you didn’t get anything from the session then what did I/you contribute?”.  We all have a professional responsibility to learn and contribute to the learning of others.

We don’t keep working to improve because we are not good enough, we do it because we can be even better – and who doesn’t want to be better for the students they serve?

In the end, if leaders don’t help the people they serve to move beyond feeling like they need permission and toward an internal sense of responsibility to conceive and investigate new ideas, then they risk becoming a bottleneck to innovation or worse, pushing innovators back into the shadows.

So I continue to look for a way to bring the modeling, empowering, and supporting of risk-taking, iteration and feedback into a concise statement. I’ll let you know when it comes to me.

Feature image:  [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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