Kagan's Articles - FREE Kagan Articles

Articles by Dr. Vern Minor

Do as I Do, Not as I Say

Dr. Vern Minor
Director of Educational leadership

To cite this article: Minor, V. Do as I Do, Not as I Say. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #61. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. www.KaganOnline.com

I suspect there is more than one reader who is thinking right now, “Hey! Wait a minute! That is not how the saying goes.” You would be correct in your thinking. “Do as I say, not as I do” is the well-known expression. However, know that my reversal of terms was not a typo. I want us to rethink the implications of what occurs when we function as a leader from the perspective, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Is what we say important as a leader? The answer to that question is unequivocally, “Yes!” Trent Nelson, a digital marketing strategist, describes statements good leaders should say every day, among them being the following:

  • “I have trust in you.”
  • “I am proud of you.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “Please?”
  • “I can’t do it without you.”

Who would disagree with these statements? We should speak kindly and respectfully to our staff. However, when I am talking about what we say, I am not addressing social graces. Rather, I am speaking about the words we use when we are leading school improvement. Are we attempting to lead staff with our voices only? Perhaps more important, does what we say align with what we do? I have found far too often that many leaders use the right jargon but do not follow with any kind of action.

Make no mistake about it—what we choose to do resonates much more strongly with those we lead than what we say.

Those of you who have read past Administrator Tips know that this is a subject near and dear to my heart. In Issue #50 (Be What You Want to See!), I noted, “Staff members pay attention to our actions.” In Issue #51 (Lead with Action Verbs, Not Linking Verbs), I stressed, “True leaders, those that people will follow, are people of action.” While the words that come out of our mouths are important, if they are not accompanied by appropriate actions, they have little impact on staff members. Make no mistake about it—what we choose to do resonates much more strongly with those we lead than what we say. Our staff expects our actions to line up with our words. When this does not occur, we lose influence.

Given this, what should leaders do? Well, much can be said on this topic. Instructional leaders clearly behave in a different manner than managers of old. For now, let’s narrow our focus to a single issue. What should leaders do to convey to staff that student engagement is paramount? Many of you who are reading this article have made student engagement a focal point in school improvement. Perhaps you have brought a Kagan Workshop to your district and encouraged staff to attend. Maybe you have had your entire staff attend training together; if so, I applaud you. However, training alone is not going to ensure teachers embrace student engagement. For that to occur, leaders must move beyond words to action.

Stretch yourself and take risks by integrating structured interaction into your meetings.

There are many actions a leader can take to send the message that engagement is a priority (e.g., coaching, conducting PIES analyses, leading SAM Clubs, making use of implementation rubrics). However, let me suggest a starting point if you are in the beginning stages of implementation. Use structures in faculty meetings. The one time that we, as leaders, have to overtly demonstrate to staff how much we value engagement is by the way we facilitate meetings.

If we say we believe in student engagement (i.e., “Do as I say…”) but do not engage staff during our meetings (i.e., “…not as I do”), then what we say about engagement rings hollow. In such a scenario, what we say does not align with what we do. Our words take on far greater meaning when we utilize the very same structures in our meetings that we want teachers to use in the classrooms. Changing our meetings from traditional sit-and-get to structured dialogue opportunities clearly communicates to teachers that we value student engagement.

Do as I do, not as I say!  Lead with actions, not just words. Be a model of good pedagogy for teachers. Stretch yourself and take risks by integrating structured interaction into your meetings. When teachers see us—not just hear us—ensuring engagement for all occurs in our meetings, they will be encouraged and motivated to do the same in their classrooms.


Nelson, T. 10 Things Good Leaders Say Every Day. Retrieved July 31, 2019 from https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-things-good-leaders-say-every-day.html