Discernment for our times

Discernment – A Road Map

Here is a roadmap to this double-issue of eight entries.

The world has changed

Less and less of our world is settled and predictable. More and more is unsettled and unpredictable.  Discernment—knowing when to hold, fold, walk away, or find a better way—is at a premium.


Never have we seen such high levels of superintendent and CEO turnover. Never have we needed DISCERNMENT more.




  1. the ability to judge well.
  2. perceptiveness. observant

In This Issue:

Leading in the Neutral Zone

Coming off of COVID is an ending, not a beginning. The Neutral Zone (Bridges) is where things are up for grabs, with voices on all sides clamoring for attention. It is where we lead through influence and process rather than position and power. Click here for ideas on navigating the chaos ahead.

Lessons Learned 

Our communities continue to be divided—over COVID mitigations, racial equity, books, and more. And spring brings decisions about budgets, evaluations, and personnel decisions. Click here for ideas on surviving: community conflict, budget decisions, principal replacements.

Racial Equity

We seem to be in a “U” shaped curve (Neutral Zone), caught in the middle between two polarities. More than half of our students represent communities of color. And we continue to fall farther behind on serving every student well. Additionally, some communities now have organized resistance to discussing racial equity. Click here to read the Puyallup story about how they are using thoughtful discernment to move forward on racial equity. More Books also includes several books on advancing equity.


This month’s full-length review is Collaborating with the Enemy. Kahane presents three ideas of “stretch collaboration:” balance love and power, be experimental, and recognize our part of the problem.

More Books includes another half-dozen books on discernment, decision making, and adaptive leadership. Two of the best include: Tempered Resilience and Adaptive Leadership in a Global Economy. Both offer concrete suggestions for how to survive and thrive in chaotic times.


I’ll end with this observation on discernment from John Maxwell. “Discernment,” Maxwell says, “goes deeper than knowledge,” bringing “profound perception of what is occurring.” My previous blogs have offered multiple suggestions on adaptive leadership. Here Maxwell offers seven steps to grow our discernment:

  • Hear God’s direction through prayer, meditation, and scripture
  • Look for root causes in your problem solving
  • Review past successes for processes that worked well
  • Identify options with IQ and EQ
  • Expand options by seeking advice
  • Seek out more perspectives
  • Listen to your intuition



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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: Larry@Larrynyland.com | 425-418-4398 | LarryNyland.com