top of page


Screen Shot 2020-09-11 at 7.43.58 PM.png

Book:  Start. Right. Now.

Author:  Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, Jimmy Casas

Purchase:  PrinteBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Whitaker, T., Zoul, J. & Casas, J. (2017). Start. Right. Now. : teach and lead for excellence. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Three Big Takeaways:​​
  1. John Wooden said, "Effective leaders are, first and foremost, great teachers. We are in the education business." Great leaders are great teachers. Our very best leaders know that they must teach those they lead, and our very best teachers realize they are leaders and behave accordingly. Much of what makes a great leader is also what makes a great teacher, and vice versa. We have come to believe that these two terms have much more in common than some might think, and, in fact, are interchangeable in our very best schools. IN the very best schools the lines between "teacher" and "leader" tend to blur, with classroom teachers taking on active leadership roles and building principals devoting time to directly teaching students and staff. (pg. 1)

  2. School leaders who truly embody the lead-learner mentality and model lifelong learning are not merely learning for the sake of their own growth; they are continually learning and growing so that they can teach others what they are learning. Learning leaders seek learning opportunities for a variety of reasons, one of which is their desire to serve as leaders who teach. Although school administrators are charged with many duties, many of which are managerial in nature, the very best leaders never forget that the core business of their schools is learning. They realize that their core focus must be on learning, including the learning not only of students in their schools, but also adults - starting with themselves. (pg. 13)

  3. Knowing how important self-confidence is to their own success, successful leaders aspire to instill this same sense of confidence in students they teach and staff members they lead. In fact, they know that confidence is the greatest gift they can give students or staff members they share. Leaders work intentionally to give the gift of confidence to teachers with whom they work. They do this by visiting classrooms and follow up on informal visits by writing short notes complimenting teachers on something they saw while there. They see amazing things happening in classrooms and encourage teachers to share their ideas. They thank and praise teachers - privately and publicly - for doing work above and beyond the call of duty. (pg. 40)


Other Key Ideas:

Although many teachers who lead recognize that their students and peers consider them leaders, a number of excellent teachers are surprised when they are told of their unique talent for leading others. These humble teachers seem to think of leadership as a field of study reserved for a select few. They believe that leadership entails bigger, more profound actions than the ones they take on a daily basis as they go about their job teaching students. However, virtually no job opens itself up to the possibility of influencing others more than that of a classroom teacher. It is often the simplest acts that educators perform that have the greatest influence and impact on others. (pg. 10)

Outstanding administrators have studied at length to learn as much as possible about best practices in leadership, reading and researching a wealth of literature relating to not only school leadership, but also organizational leadership in general. In addition to earning advanced degrees, they continue learning by reading books, blog posts, and a wide variety of other materials to stay current with emerging trends and to expand their knowledge base. They attend professional learning events, and connect with leaders around the globe to learn about successes leaders are experiencing elsewhere in an effort to replicate such successes. (pg. 31)

Being known as a visionary leader is nice, but it may not be as strategic as you think. It often starts simply by being passionate about some aspect of the work and then following that passion persistently, while relying on your internal compass to guide you about the next steps along the path to your ultimate destination. (pg. 92)

There is nothing more demoralizing than watching others put themselves on the line in an effort to do something extraordinary for students, staff, or the community, only to be left feeling completely defeated. This feeling should never happen. Teachers should leave the meeting more excited than when they went in to share their ideas. Excellent leaders know how to move others in a way that motivates them to learn more, do more, and be more than they ever imagined possible. They go out of their way to inspire others to aspire for excellence. (pg. 113)

The best educators recognize that it is never about them, but rather about others. They don't take things personally and don't give up on kids, despite realizing that kids will disappoint at times. Why? Because they are kids, and that is what kids do. They disappoint us. Excellent educators don't fret about this; instead they view it as an opportunity to cultivate a friendship that may not have existed previously. (pg. 116)

Long-term success comes from a one-day-at-a-time insistence on continuous, focused actions aimed at getting better every day. Repeating this pattern of intentional improvement each and every subsequent day yields results that may have seemed impossible to imagine only a few years earlier. The only way to achieve "sudden" success is by purposefully achieving it one day at a time and never letting an opportunity for improvement pass them by. Overnight successes rarely happens in any walk of life, and education is no exception. Educators and schools recognized for excellence typically have a long tradition of engaging in strategic behaviors consistently over time designed to attain such excellence. (pg. 156)

Imagine a doctor, mechanic, architect, or engineer who chose to continue practicing the same way over time, relying on inferior methods rather than adopting new and better techniques. We doubt they would remain in business very long. Excellent educators realize that education should be held to this same standard; when we find a new and better way of doing some aspect of our work, it becomes a moral imperative to adopt the change - regardless of how difficult the path to change will be or the level of resistance we meet along the way. (pg. 163)

Being a connected educator is a mindset more than anything else. The connected educator mindset believes that teachers and leaders are in the learning business and, therefore, also serve as lead learners, constantly reaching out to learn, share, and collaborate with a network of fellow learners who are equally passionate about learning. (pg. 168)

Whenever there is a teaching position open in a great leader's school, the principal treats the opening as a precious opportunity to improve the school and has a laser-like focus to hire the very best teacher, regardless of experience, race, gender, or any other variable. The only variable that does matter is that the new person be truly excellent. (pg. 178)

bottom of page