Thank you for visiting the ISU Ed. Leadershop. Our intent over the past few years has been to field-test community-engaged writings for PK-20 practitioner conversation -- quick, 5-minute "read's" that help put into perspective the challenges and opportunities in our profession. Some of the writings have remained here solely; others have been developed further for other outlets. Our space has been a delightful "sketch board" for some very creative minds in leadership, indeed.

We believe that by kicking around an idea or two and not getting too worked-up over it, the thinking and writing involved have even greater potential to make a difference on behalf of those we serve. In such, please give us a read; share with others. We encourage your thoughts, opinions, feelings, and reactions to our work and thank you for taking your time. You keep us relevant.

[Technical Note: If you find that your particular web browser does not allow you to view our articles for a full-text read, please simply select another browser and enjoy.]

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Leadership in Dog Years

Leadership in Dog Years

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

Could one’s tenure in school leadership be thought of in terms of dog years? 

Said another way, does leadership’s tenure, in what it represents through description and contribution, offer its own conversion factor to the more typical developmental lifespans often discussed?

In consulting a few sources (Cesar Millan’s (Dog Whisperer) website at and Pedigree’s website at, I learned what I believed I had known for some time: that a simple calculation of dog-to-people years does not exist.  It depends on the size of the dog, the breed of the dog, and the general health and wellness pertaining to lifestyle, circumstances, and ownership.  Nevertheless, did offer this helpful guide:

Dog Years
Human Years

Leadership’s tenure and what it represents depends on myriad circumstances as well, yet as a general rule, can we use something as metaphorically far-reaching as dog years to determine what impact we may be having as leaders and when it might be time to “move along little doggie”? 

To consider these, we could begin asking a few questions:

In leadership’s first year, is one’s leadership metaphorically similar to a 15-year-old?  Infatuated with it all, with possibly a combination of insecurity and overconfidence … knowing all the answers if not careful?

In leadership’s third year, is one’s leadership metaphorically similar to a 28-year-old?  About the right age to know what one wants, attractive to others, with peak performance yet possibly a bit shy on wisdom?

In leadership’s fifth year, is one’s leadership metaphorically similar to a 37-year-old?  Working hard to raise children (i.e. faculty & staff), imparting values, helping others to make good decisions to carry on the “family” name and provide for others who may depend on them?

In leadership’s tenth year, is one’s leadership metaphorically similar to a 62-year-old?  A matriarch or patriarch, wise in guidance and the living logo of what the organizational family represents.

Beyond that point (the ten-year mark), is it time for retirement or a reintroduction of our leadership to its adolescence in another’s neighborhood?

Admittedly, today’s 62 is the new 52, with one’s contribution potential enhanced through advances in medicine and overall lifespan potential.  Can it be said similarly that advancements in leadership science, including proper wellness, education, and continued maintenance, offer the same contributory parallels in school leadership?

The deeper question is this, of course:  Does leadership have an actuarial table, that guides us when making decisions on the continued impact of what we are doing, compared to what others could bring anew into our organization’s leadership equation?


Dr. Ryan Donlan’s longest tenure as a school leader was 11 years.  He encourages your input into his fledgling theories, as a sample of one does not an effective research design make.  You can reach him for comment, commentary, or canine contribution at (812) 237-8624 or at

No comments:

Post a Comment