OODA Loops

This week I watched a school community deal with the loss of a staff member for the second time this year. It’s something no school should have to endure. Schools are families. No doubt about it. And when something like this happens, they pull together to support each other and to do what needs to be done.

Leadership in those moments is hard, but it is exactly in those moments that people need solid leadership the most. Servant leadership during the hard times involves putting your own needs aside and doing what needs to be done for the good of the organization.

A friend and fellow administrator who was also in the military taught me about the OODA loop. Developed by Air Force Colonel John Boyd, it is a strategy that has implications not just for difficult situations but for all situations. Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. In tough moments, good leaders work the loop again and again.

Observe the situation and orient yourself. The first step to managing anything is to pay attention and gather information. Most people get that. Processing the information though, making sense of it, is more complex. We orient through our own knowledge, background, and experience. The more we know, the more likely we are to make accurate sense of the information.

But this week it was the decide and act that caught my attention.

Moments of great stress can be an almost paralyzing experience. Great leaders are able to overcome that, make a decision, and act. I watched a team of people come together this week to provide information, perspective, and opinions to a school leader. And I watched a great school leader orient, decide, and act.

Servant leadership is not easy. It would be easier to stop in those moments and take the time you need for yourself. But leaders know the organization comes first in those moments. They do what needs to be done.

I watched great leadership in all its forms this week. I watched student leaders support their peers. I watched teacher leaders refuse to leave their classrooms and tend to their own needs because they wanted to be sure the needs of their students were being met. And I watched school and District leaders step up to do what needed to be done.

Leadership in those moments is hard. But great leaders make hard moments easier because they orient, decide, and act.

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