Book Review: Hacking Leadership

The book Hacking Leadership By Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis is definitely worth the read  it is impactful and has great information available to all leaders.  

Every chapter consists of a hack and how you can improve your leadership in real life cases and scenarios.  Each chapter introduces the hack and why it’s important and then gives examples of how those changes could be implemented tomorrow as well as provide a blueprint for continued success and steps to take.


“Because a school’s culture extends to all of its stakeholders, effective interactions are the single most important non-negotiable in creating flourishing schools.”

Hack 1 BE PRESENT AND ENGAGED Lead learners are visible

Healthy relationships are at the core of any highly successful school or district.The important transition is to move away from being a manager and become an instructional leader. This does not mean that the managerial tasks go away, but that you make a conscious effort to be visible everywhere and engages.

Some examples are show include

  • -setting time aside each day for relationship building
  • -ask questions
  • -be engaged with kids ( have lunch with them)
  • -celebrate in public
  • -get out of your office

A blueprint of implementation is also given to the reader that includes.

  • Step 1: Start every school day with personal interactions.
  • Step 2: Use morning announcements to kick start community.
  • Step 3: Cover classes to give teachers planning time.
  • Step 4: Start a voluntary club during recess.
  • Step 5: Blog to be transparent and reflective.
  • Step 6: Create a “dream team.”

Once change is initiated in any organization there will be push back. Don’t be afraid of it. Stay positive and stay on course.

Hack 2 CREATE C.U.L.T.U.R.E. Start with school leaders

The problem is that school leaders underestimate themselves and the value that they bring to the culture. C.U.L.T.U.R.E. to help school leaders with this hack: Communication Uncovers Learning Transparency Ultimately Reveals Everything. 

Examples of what you can do tomorrow is included:

  1. Feed people.
  2. Define the status of the school culture
  3. Share communication plan with families

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Build ongoing communication with all stakeholders.
  • Step 2: Educate families and staff.
  • Step 3: Ask questions.
  • Step 4: Hand the microphone over to the community.
  • Step 5: Hone the vision.

Hack 3 BUILD RELATIONSHIPS Connect with intentionality


“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen Covey, American Author, Businessman


“We learn by doing, but we learn more by reflecting on what we have done”.

Build relationships by connecting and reflecting.

What you can do to tomorrow

  1. Use Google for scheduling
  2. Write positive notes
  3. Conduct a hashtag review
  4. Follow through on all commitments
  5. Make five positive phone calls about student each week
  6. Target issues appropriately
  7. Send cards to family members

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Build up momentum before the school year starts.
  • -Call the teachers.
  • -Provide back-to-school swag.
  • Step 2: Ditch the opening staff meeting.
  • Step 3: Find places to celebrate the efforts of staff members.
  • Step 4: Meet the staff where they like to be.
  • Step 5: Participate in the big events.
  • Step 6: Take advantage of the small events.
  • Step 7: Be transparent about your growth.

Hack 4 FLATTEN THE WALLS OF YOUR SCHOOL Create partnership with the community

“Flattening the walls of your school entails eliminating the communication barriers so everyone feels like they are part of the school community”.

What you can do tomorrow

  1. Find out where stakeholders spend their virtual lives.
  2. Create a calendar.
  3. Leverage the power of the hashtag.

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Connect online tools for ease of use.
  • Step 2: Set goals for communication.
  • Step 3: Plan the roll-out.
  • Step 4: Keep the momentum rolling.

Hack 5 BROADCAST STUDENT VOICES Appeal to your audience to generate support

Be proactive instead of reactive. Be ahead of the curve and sue social media to help.

“The impact of hearing a student’s voice expressing excitement over what the class learned in school can transform everyone involved”.

What you can do tomorrow

  1. Teach kids to podcast
  2. Send out a live stream

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Find your people.
  • Step 2: Make the process easy.
  • Step 3: Empower others.
  • Step 4: Ease into it.

Hack 6 CENTER SCHOOL AROUND THE CHILDREN Create schools that work for kids

“Wisdom begins in wonder”.

     Socrates, Teacher and Philosopher

What you can do tomorrow

  1. Ask for input.
  2. Play that funky music.
  3. Exercise student voice.
  4. Give kids choices within the curriculum.

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Create a shared decision-making team.
  • Step 2: Encourage student participation on committees.
  • Step 3: Create a Brilliance Builder lab.
  • Step 4: Initiate a student EdCamp.

Hack 7 HIRE SUPERSTARS Develop a team of exceptional educators

The solutions- hire well!

What you can do now:

  1. Start a Google Doc with job descriptions.
  2. Generate buzz about job openings.
  3. Connect with local universities.

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Collaborate to create job descriptions.
  • Step 2: Start with a conversation.
  • Step 3: Ask fewer questions, conduct more conversation.
  • Step 4: Conduct student-led tours.
  • Step 5: Set up a site visit.
  • Step 6: Integrate the new staff member.
  • Step 7: Create a “press conference” to announce new team members.
  • Step 8: Facilitate mentoring.
  • Step 9: Invest time.
  • Step 10: Revisit job descriptions annually.

Hack 8 PASSION PROJECTS FOR ADULTS Empower teachers to control their own learning

What you can do tomorrow:

  1. Get teachers thinking about their passions.
  2. Pass good resources on to teachers.
  3. Provide opportunities for informal meetings.

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Identify the goals that your district deems essential.
  • Step 2: Ask staff for input.
  • Step 3: Integrate student data components into the goals.
  • Step 4: Ask teachers to find a mentor.
  • Step 5: Give teachers unstructured time to work on professional development.
  • Step 6: Be flexible.
  • Step 7: Provide quality feedback.

Hack 9 COLLABORATE AND LEARN Facilitate collective professional development

“If educators feel passionately about an idea and see value in it, the chances of their using it as a focal point for future learning—both individually and collectively—increases exponentially.”

What you can do tomorrow:

  1. Talk to teachers about what they need.
  2. Make collaborating about learning the norm.
  3. Build common time into the schedule.
  4. Create a Collective Learning chart to document learning.

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Take a reading on staff readiness.
  • Step 2: Rebrand staff meetings.
  • Step 3: Make collective learning the norm.
  • Step 4: Start a collective learning committee.
  • Step 5: Initiate teacher-led sessions that support collective learning.

Hack 10 CHANGE THE MINDSET Eradicate deficit thinking

“I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves”.—Louise Hay, Author and Motivational Speaker

What you can do tomorrow:

  1. Find out what parents want for their children.
  2. Talk to the children.
  3. Seek to understand what children can do.
  4. Use data to identify strengths.

A blueprint for immediate implementation is also included

  • Step 1: Build capacity.
  • Step 2: Model, model, model.
  • Step 3: Encourage educators to learn something difficult.
  • Step 4: Give kids access to diverse learning opportunities.
  • Step 5: Celebrate the awesome things happening in your school.

“Hacking the deficit mindset can best be accomplished by framing every problem as an opportunity to learn from a new experience”.

One of the best parts of the book included real world pushback scenarios of what a leader will encounter and had several example of how to overcome those obstacles.


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