The 6 Secrets of Change

Michael Fullan offers tremendous insight into leadership and elements of change and achievement. One of the most influential works entitled, The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive, explore organizational change in a school system as opposed to a hard and fast approach. Fullan refers to the six secrets of change as a ‘theory of action’ where they can be used to create action plans to stimulate appropriate and effective change. Each secret is discussed within its own chapter because they are all equally important and more significantly, all interconnected. 

“The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers  and principals, since student learning is ultimately the product of what goes on in classrooms”

Fullan’s 6 Secrets are crucial to teachers and school administrators for successful organizational change, but reminds the reader that these pieces of advice are not used for immediate implementation. Instead, they should be studied and examined as a foundation for successful change prior to creating an action plan. As in any guiding principles, there can be misinterpretation and misuse. Fullan reinforces the interconnectedness of these secrets in order to curtail these problems. His six secrets include:

1. Love Your Employees

2. Connect Peers with Purpose

3. Capacity Building Prevails

4. Learning is the Work

5. Transparency Rules

6. Systems Learn

Although each secret is important, I focus on on the first, which acts as the foundation of his book as well as it being my personal favorite:

Love Your Employees

Loving your employees at first seems reasonable and even obvious, but many teachers and school administrators do not put enough emphasis on this element. His notion of loving employees goes beyond the superficial of respecting teachers, but involves respecting and caring for all stakeholders in the system, including students and the community. In effective schools, there needs to be a balance between student-focused and teacher-focused elements. Some school administrators have solely lead under the premise of student success, but this has creating fatigue and unhappiness amongst employees. All stakeholders in a system are equally important and when this notion is acknowledged, student success follows. Fullan provides business examples which promote the positive outcomes of respecting and caring for employees through a comparison of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.


6 Secrets to Leadership


The shared goals, knowledge, and respect is strikingly different between each company. Loving Your Employees allows workers to feel a part of the system and take pride in the outcomes.

The most important insights in Fullan’s first rule are:

  • The implementation dip is normal
  • Behaviors change before beliefs
  • The size and prettiness of the planning document is inversely related to the quantity of action and student learning
  • Shared vision or ownership is more of an outcome of a quality process than it is a precondition
  • Feelings are more influential than thoughts
Leading Change Continuum
Leading Change Continuum

It is clear that relationship building is crucial to effective and sustained leadership. Fullan reinforces the idea that true change occurs when the workforce is happy by making Love Your Employees the foundation of these secrets. In the school environment, there are clear and direct benefits to each stakeholder, with student achievement at the top:

Influences on Student Achievement
Influences on Student Achievement

Overall a tremendous set of leadership qualities well-laid out by Michael Fullan. Recommended for all new leaders and those who aspire to step into the leadership role.

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