Bill Sommers Explains Why Communication is Key to Effective Leadership

by Bill Sommers
Published in SEDL Letter Volume XVII, Number 2, Leadership for Learning

Administrators cannot expect results if they cannot communicate what they want and how they want it done in a way that encourages others to listen and act,” writes Bill Sommers in Being a Successful Principal: Riding the Wave of Change Without Drowning, which he wrote with David Schumaker. “Trust is built through open and truthful communication. It is a two-way process.”

Sommers, who joined SEDL in July, knows what he’s talking about. As a former junior high and high school principal, he is speaking from experience. In fact, he and Schumaker used the journals they each kept to write Being a Successful Principal; they point out that the book is not theory but rather reality based on personal experiences.

“As a principal, you have two responsibilities when it comes to communication: (1) lead conversations on instruction and learning, and (2) keep hope alive,” he says. In other words, principals must make sure teachers discuss and understand what is meaningful about teaching and learning, and they must keep morale and spirits high.

Sommers spent 35 years in public education as a teacher and principal in both suburban and urban schools. He has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, Hamline University, the University of St. Thomas, Capella University, and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He has written five books. Currently, Sommers is the incoming president of the National Staff Development Council.

In his new role as program manager for the Regional Educational Laboratory, Sommers manages educational grants and provides research and implementation strategies to educational sites in SEDL’s five-state region. Although this is a departure from his role as an educator, he welcomes the challenge.

“I’m a practitioner. The appeal of this new position is making research come alive in the daily lives of teachers and principals in schools so students are better served,” Sommers says. “It’s always about the kids for me.”

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