The following essay was written by Sep Kamvar and shared with the Wildflower faculty.
The Wildflower Guide to Not Having a Boss
I am not your boss. At Wildflower, there are no bosses. This is easy to hear, but difficult to internalize. If there are no bosses, who directs your work? The answer is that you direct your work. We believe that adults, like children, are intrinsically curious, intrinsically motivated to grow, and intrinsically motivated to help others and be productive members of society. We also believe that adults, like children, do this best when they have the freedom to do so in a way that is suited to their interests and their current developmental phase.
I have heard a few times -- “I thought Sep wanted us to do x.” This is never true. I only want you to do two things: I want you to craft your life and work in a way that makes you happy. And I want you to also do these things in a way that doesn’t make the people around you unhappy.
Two questions arise in this model:
The first question that arises is: “What if what makes me and my co-head of school happy are incompatible? What if, for example, what makes both of us happy is writing the newsletter, and what makes us both unhappy is setting up the classroom? Or, more generally, what if what makes me happy makes my co-head unhappy?”
In the near-term, you’ll work something out, by letting each other know what makes each of you happy, and by finding a middle ground when there are incompatibilities. (We also help with this by outlining default roles for a head and assistant head of school, which are all changeable but give a starting point for a conversation.)
In the long-term, this culture makes compatibility very important. And I don’t mean just compatibility of personalities. What I mean by compatibility is that each person does what they love, and the work needed to run a school still all gets done.
Such compatibility is difficult to ascertain through interviews -- it’s best ascertained by actually working together. For this reason, as the network grows, we will try to provide opportunities for people to work together before entering into a 3-year commitment of working with one another, both at the individual school level and at the network level.
A second question that arises in this bossless environment is: “What if Sep suggests something that he’d like to see done?” The answer to this is that I can propose things just as anybody else can propose things, and people are welcome to work on those things if they wish. The important thing is that you should work on an idea I propose only if you are excited by the idea itself, not because you feel an obligation to me as the proposer. Remember, what I want most for you is to do the work that makes your heart sing.
If you choose work that makes your heart sing, the work that comes out will naturally be of better quality than work that is done out of obligation. And as an added bonus, it won’t feel like work.