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Nothing's Impossible: Leadership Lessons From Inside And Outside The Classroom Paperback – April 9, 1999
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This self-described "maniac leader" has written a delightful guide to becoming boss, whether it be in business or your own life. In this case, Lorraine Monroe's line of work is public education--and she possesses some pretty impressive credentials. As founder and principal of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy, she turned a wreck of a school into an inner-city success story, raising it to a third-place ranking among 180 New York public schools for student achievement. But her down-home tome of inspirational lists, autobiographical anecdotes, and thoughts on leadership transcends the schoolyard. Many of her tenets, collectively called the "Monroe Doctrine," could apply to management in most any field.
Monroe pulls no punches in her passion, even when describing her own life. She takes issue with the best and worst teachers from her own education, and portrays her parents, particularly her father, as imperfect but inspiring individuals as part of a symbolic lesson about adopting the best traits of those who surround you. Written in a wholesome, conversational style, her sound-bite nuggets of advice come across like a collection of Mom's best words of wisdom. "Worthwhile work is rarely done from 9 to 5," she advises. "Avoid people who envy, complain and drain." Her one-woman pep rally ranks up there with Trump: The Art of the Deal and basketball coaching legend Pat Riley's The Winner Within as a recipe for success. --Jodi Mailander Farrell
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I feel that the book was written for those who are looking for an inspirational story or a little hope in their education or the beliefs that miracle could happen. Especially those people who are children. School is a place where children can come to learn and get away from the hardships of their lives at home. Children desire structure and challenge which allows them to transform their lives for the better. Monroe has set out to target the children who struggle with taking on responsibilities that they themselves are not accountable for. This is why Monroe is an icon to those in need of a good education and to those that read her story.
In order to succeed in any profession, you have to have good personal communication and leadership skills. These two qualities; personal communication and leadership skills were the specific strengths that I chose after reading the book. In writing this book, Lorraine Monroe made it clear that she was a leader and she wasn’t afraid to have a voice. She faced many challenges and always found a way to work through them, which in turn, strengthened her leadership skills. There were also times when she had to depend on her communication skills in order to further her career and she did so in a professional and fearless manner.
“First and foremost, get a leader who is fearless (or perhaps crazy) enough to take well-calculated risks.” This is a quote from the book and explains how a leader must take risks in order to lead. This is exactly what Monroe did and it’s demonstrated throughout the book. When Lorraine Monroe was selected as the principal for the Frederick Douglass Academy she faced a lot of unknown challenges and that is when her leadership skills came into play.
Lorraine Monroe always knew that she wanted to be a fearless leader. She analyzed all of her past jobs and spoke with different colleagues because she wanted to find out what it took to build a successful academy. She knew she had to have a mission and structure, good student/ staff morale, and be able to take risks. She developed a plan for the academy, retained the students and staff and then relied on her good leadership skills. Her thoughts about having a successful academy didn’t depend on building a great school, but actually depended on her leadership abilities. She built great relationships with different people through networking as she knew that a leader had to have effective networking skills. She used her background in consulting for networking and developing relationships with staff; which also utilized her personal communication skills.
While realizing the strengths of the book, I also recognized some weaknesses as well. Two of the weaknesses that I noticed were staff retention and low staff morale. This book clearly demonstrated that it would be a hardy challenge to open this academy because of the unknowns, which would explain the problems with keeping staff and low staff morale. Some of the staff was there before Lorraine Monroe became the principal but they had to learn her expectations as a leader and decide if the job was something they wanted to keep.
Once she became the principal, Lorraine Monroe knew that one mistake she had made was in the hiring of some staff. She decided that the hiring mistake was a benefit to her because now she could have the staff who really wanted to be there. However, staff retention is a weakness because it tends to reduce student learning, doesn’t always build good relationships or communication and it oftentimes reduces team cohesion. I especially felt it was important to have better staff retention because it builds student/staff trust and therefore builds a better team.
The low staff morale was clearly already there when Lorraine Monroe was selected as the principal for the academy. The school administrator that was there before her had a bad reputation and that also contributed to the staff turnover and low staff morale. The students were out of control and the teachers didn’t want to deal with that. But now they had a principal who wanted to change the reputation and build a successful academy through effective leadership. Once she came into the academy, she outlined her plan and got the staff that she needed and then the staff morale improved. Now that the staff could see her vision and became involved, they wanted to fulfill the purpose of the school. Lorraine Monroe was effective in building meaningful relationships between the staff and students.
Overall the reviews of this book are good; this book average 4 ½ stars on Amazon. A majority of the reviews were positive and had good things to say. Most people found the book informative and enlightening. They took away some good ideas from Monroe. But some of the criticisms of this book were that many felt the ideas were too focused on what would work in schools and they were not sure how it would apply outside of the school setting. Other criticisms of the book were that many felt that Monroe created a charter school in the school district where she was an administrator. By selecting the students and not taking the students FDA they would normally take was not really representative of a true public school setting.
This book is a very informative book with concepts that can be applied to the outside world. People tend to like to be happy and to be part of a success story. Taking calculated risks can be part of being an effective leader. Monroe demonstrated that being a leader contributed to the overall success more than anything else. Holding people and herself accountable was the key to this successful endeavor.
Our group would recommend this book as it shows and explains many good concepts for successful management. For instance, being a good leader and doing something with much success will make people want to become a part of it. I, as well as my team, enjoyed this book and believe it is a good read.
While I found this book enlightening it also raised a few concerns as Monroe was able to select the students that attended the school she was able to select the ones that would best fit what she wanted to achieve. By doing this the school was no longer completely representative of the area served by the school and much closer to a charter school. I believe this very much helped Monroe out.
Overall this book is a good read and I would recommend reading it because it is a really good book!
Highly recommended for educators of all levels: new teachers, veteran teachers, and administrators.
Her writing style in concise chapters and episodes make for a quick read, however not everyone will like this style.
Overall, she shares some useful tricks of the trade and helps put the focus that high expectations and vision are key to effective leadership.