top of page

Navigating Leadership Drift: 
Observable Impact on Rigorous Learning 

Drift Book Cover Opt_9.png

“Timely and brilliant” - James Nottingham

“Witty and powerful” - John Hattie

“Smart, refreshing and practical” - Tammy Heflebower

“I walked away from this book a better leader” - Jimmy Casas

Navigating Leadership Drift: Observable Impact on Rigorous Learning

Michael McDowell (Author)
Cale Birk (Author)

We are losing leaders in our schools. 


Given the demands that are put on today’s schools and the number of hats leaders feel they are supposed to wear, the bigger surprise is that we haven’t lost more. But in many ways, school leaders are their own well-meaning worst enemy: they try to be everything to everyone all the time, which takes them away from the work they are supposed to be doing. They begin to drift.


Avoid drifting toward being the “knower” or the “doer” and instead lead others to solve problems using clear evidence to move the needle substantially for kids. This book provides leaders with the research, practical guidance, and hands on tools, to ensure everyone gets better at getting better in their practices and the outcomes we care about.


Throughout this book, leaders will find vignettes, reflective questions, and examples to avoid the drift, or if you fall in, get back out, and lead in the most complex yet rewarding profession in the world. We hope this book becomes that symbolic tow truck that allows you to be the leader that helps those they lead be the best at getting better. 

Magazine Stack

"Navigating Leadership Drift"
Online Appendix

Click below to access additional resources and tools to support your leadership work!

About the Authors

Michael mcdowell.jpg

Michael McDowell, EdD has been a public school educator for the past eighteen years serving in the roles of classroom teacher, academic and athletic coach, school principal, assistant superintendent of personnel and instruction, and superintendent.  During his tenure as a superintendent, his school district received state and national accolades including the National Blue Ribbon Award which recognized their work for student performance and mental health and well-being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic by the U.S. Department of Education.  

Dr. McDowell serves on numerous boards, served as a college professor, and worked for non-profit organizations to enhance student learning around the world.  Over the course of his career, Dr. McDowell has authored bestselling books, created professional learning programs and workbooks, provided keynotes and workshops, and provided practical tools and resources for thousands of teachers and leaders on almost every continent around the world.  A prolific author and consultant, Dr. McDowell is recognized as one of the leading authorities on integrating innovative and impactful practices into schools.  Offering keynotes and executive coaching to heads of school around the world, he partners with educational leaders to implement high leverage strategies that will enhance teaching and learning in classrooms, schools, and systems. 

Cale Birk

Cale Birk is a former Head of Innovation from British Columbia, Canada and imagineer and co-author of PLC 2.0 - Collaborating for Impact in Today's Schools, and Changing Change Using Learner-Centered Design. An educator in the public school system for 15 years, Cale was a biology, science and physical education teacher as well as a coach of volleyball, basketball and golf. As a former high school principal, his school was named a model PLC school after increasing student success rates across all grades and subject areas for five consecutive years. The father of two daughters in the K-12 system, Cale is passionate about helping educators and leaders experience and model the learning experiences we want for our students in their classrooms.

Currently, Cale helps districts, schools and industry leaders answer the question, "What is our observable impact?" and focus on the observable changes in practice that make the difference for all learners. Using the lens of “impact” rather than “action,” Cale has helped district leaders, school leaders and teachers reimagine and implement team plans, school plans and strategic plans that matter to educators and can actually be observed where it matters the most–in classrooms with students and teachers.  In addition to his work as an author and facilitator, Cale has been the keynote/featured speaker at conferences in numerous states and provinces around North America, done a TED Talk and given addresses and workshops in Canada, the United States, Asia, New Zealand and Australia.  In one of his latest projects, Cale is developing a global collaboration/observation network for school leaders from around the world to bring international perspectives, ideas and solutions to instructional challenges in our schools.


"Navigating Leadership Drift is an essential guide for educational leaders seeking to make a meaningful impact on student learning."

Hanin Hasweh, Principal, The Harbor View School

bottom of page