The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook by David L. Cooperrider, Diana Whitney, and Jacqueline M. Stavros states, “AI has demonstrated that human systems grow in the direction of their persistent inquiries,” and when the purpose is aligned to the manner in which we get there, the result is sustainable and meaningful. As educators and practitioners of AOE, we must acknowledge that problems will always exist—but more significantly, as school leaders, we must reframe these issues, as explained in A Positive Manifesto by Leonard C. Burrello, Linda M. Beitz, and John L. Mann, in order to celebrate the assets and not the drawbacks therein.
Interestingly, while we aim to focus on the positive in all circumstances, it is only through a thoughtful, generative process that we can begin to mitigate all the competing forces in leadership. When leaders collaborate and focus on developing authentic relationships, they are able to overcome some of the external pressures that weigh upon them—very often looked at as external accountability. The irony is that the best leaders already have their sense of purpose established. The relational leader understands that without the combined effort of the organization, he likely will not be able to provide sustained results. This is the essence of a coherent system that aligns the strengths of an organization to maximize results.
While the principles of AOE are intuitive, it is not until we digest and reflect upon the research that supports the notions we should be practicing that we begin to truly uncover the value of this alternative approach to school reform and life itself. My professional ability to weave these teachings into the secondary education curriculum reforms I have attempted are second to the personal commitments I have made to embrace AOE in my personal life. I see just how important focusing on these relational qualities becomes, and while I know that caring for people is fundamental for me, the manner in which I utilize purposeful and deliberately positive intentions creates quite a different sense of optimism. It is important to harness these good intentions, important questions, and subsequent interactions to enhance not just my own abilities but the abilities of the educators and students around me.