Out of the Gray

Submitted By:
Pearl Rock Kane, Director, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

Managing in the Gray: Five Timeless Questions for Resolving  your Toughest Problems at Workby Joseph L. Badaracco
Harvard Business Review Press, September 6, 2015

The essence of leadership in schools is working with people to accomplish goals and solve problems. For most problems, collecting facts leads to a solution, but in some cases, despite careful analysis, the solution is not clear and the people you consult may disagree. Just as challenging, you have to explain your decision to others. Grappling with "gray area" problems is the hardest part of the job because such problems test both the leader’s skill and judgment and often serve as a litmus test for further promotion. Managing in the Gray addresses ways to deal with these murky situations. To generate solutions, author Joseph Badaracco frames five questions that aim to get to the truth of what really matters in life: What are the net, net consequences? What are my core obligations? What will work in the world as it is? Who are we? What can I live with? For each question, case studies provide a meaningful way to relate to “gray area” problems. Additionally, instead of using contemporary management theories, the author looks to classical philosophers such as Confucius, Aristotle, and Nietzsche, as well as prominent thinkers who have wrestled with big questions. Badaracco’s approach is a refreshing one for confronting complex problems in our schools.

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