Embrace Your Inner-Enzyme
“Leadership,” wrote one member of my cohort, “is about embracing your inner-enzyme.” Yes, this piece
of wisdom comes from a scientist. For those of you, like me, who can’t remember (or never knew) what
an enzyme is, here’s our definition:
Enzymes are large biological molecules responsible for the thousands of chemical
interconversions8 that sustain life.
Enzymes are responsible for speeding up metabolic reactions, and for making these
interconversions more precise and efficient.
For those of you who, again like me, need further translation, here’s what I think her metaphor means
The role of a leader, committed to innovation, is to reduce the activation energy required that
frequently prohibits creative productivity.
Leaders (like enzymes) eliminate obstacles.
If we are lucky, occasionally this process will lead to mutations of the original DNA code in which new
functions, uses, strategies, and ideas are discovered and innovation occurs.
The best part of all of this is that the innovation is born from ‘the people’ not the leaders. In other
words, the leader is standing on the shoulders of future giants.
And, eventually, ‘the people’ will no longer need the leader (enzyme) to facilitate the process of
innovation. Innovation will become part of the organization’s DNA.
Beware the Bah-Hambug
What keeps educators up at night? In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote his novel, A Christmas Carol. It is a tale
of redemption. The main character Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three Ghosts: Christmas Past, Christmas
Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. The journey Scrooge takes (with the Ghosts of Christmas Past and
Yet to Come) leads him to redemption—to innovating himself.
Scrooge changed who he is to prevent the tragedy that awaited him if he failed to innovate. That’s what
keeps educators up at night—visits from the Ghost of Education Yet to Come. Every educational leader
knows that if we continue along the continuum of Education Past and Education Present, the future will
meet us with a loud and ugly, “Bah Humbug.”9
We don’t want the work we are involved in to be irrelevant. We don’t want the people we work with to
be doing things that don’t count. We don’t want our students to receive an ordinary education. No. We
want to be relevant, for our work to be critical, and for the education our children receive to be, well, for
lack of a better word: extraordinary.