Welcome to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast.  This is a weekly show for ruckus makers — What is a ruckus maker?  A leader who has found freedom from the status quo. A leader looking to escape the old routine. A leader who never, ever gives up.

A lot of school leaders feel frustrated with the red tape and bureaucracy while doing their jobs as educators.

In this episode, we talk with a man who might be able to offer a solution…without leaving your “this is stressing me out” job.

Dr. Spodek, a TED speaker and holder of 5 Ivy League degrees, offers advice on how to take initiative in the workplace so you can feel better and make a stronger impact as an educator.

We hope you enjoy the podcast. All the highlights, resources, and next steps can be found below. Listen to the full episode here and learn more at betterleadersbetterschools.com

Key Talking Points  

  • Rafael’s story of finding meaning as a burnt-out educator
  • The small mental pivot that increases collaboration and support in the workplace
  • The huge barriers that keep most people from taking initiative
  • Why everyone has the power to create more meaning in the workplace
  • The importance of “speaking their language” when talking with management
  • The difference between judgement and advice
  • Joana’s story of achieving something amazing by following a simple script

Key Milestones of the Episodes

[5:40] Feeling stuck and story of Rafael

[7:50] Helping Rafael through the gridlock

[11:38] Why it’s more important to have the right skills than “know the right people”

[16:52] How does Dr. Spodek’s ideas about initiative apply to school leaders

[20:21] Creating change you believe in with management

[25:00] One practical exercise listeners can make to be a stronger leader

[29:00] The story of Joanne

Key Quotes

It’s a real big deal to jump ship.”

“There’s opportunities all over the place.”

“Taking initiative doesn’t have to mean ‘entrepreneurship’.”

“What gets media attention tends to be the more high-tech stuff.”

“Having a perfect idea keeps some people from starting but motivates other people to go…”…

“…something like 5 or 10% of people are naturally going to come up through their natural life to have an idea, what about the other 90-95%”

“It’s easier to succeed at something you don’t like when people are paying you for it…but it doesn’t necessarily create meaning.”

“Most people are working below their potential, not in terms of output..but in terms of alignment.”

“…when the teacher gives you an assignment to read a book that you always wanted to read anyway, it doesn’t feel like work”


Key Resources 

Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work)

Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow

Don’t forget to catch more episodes and resources at the Better Leaders Better Schools website.

Other Resources

The Power of Project Learning: Why new schools are choosing an old model to bring students into the 21st century.

Read the Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap


About Our Guest

Dr. Joshua Spodek is a leadership consultant, blogger podcaster, TEDx speaker, professor at NYU, and author of the books “Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work)” and “ Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow”.

Dr. Josh Spodek Contact Info



Tip of the Week

Joining a Mastermind: Just like networking, sometimes you need to invest financially in your own development.  We do this through continued education and now it is common to do this with masterminds. By meeting regularly with equally driven leaders, individuals can accelerate their leadership development and crush their personal and professional goals.  By the way, we organize education masterminds, but seats are limited.



  • Organized Binder is an evidence-based RTI2 Tier 1 universal level solution
  • Focuses on improving executive functioning and noncognitive skills
  • Is in direct alignment with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework
  • Is an integral component for ensuring Least Restrictive Environments (LRE)

You can learn more and improve your student’s success at https://organizedbinder.com/

Teach FX

  • Empowers teachers with feedback on student engagement
  • A fitbit for teachers that measures student engagement
  • Research shows that the more students speak in class, the more they learn, and the better they perform on standardized tests.
  • Use your phone or laptop to analyze your class, and the app’s artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm tracks your talk ratio automatically, with no extra work from you or an instructional coach.
  • The idea is to give teachers a useful barometer of student engagement you can check every day!

You can learn more and improve your student’s success at https://teachfx.com/

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