As leaders we aspire to achieve for the sake of our kids, teachers, and parents; seeking to elevate others along the way. As we embark on another year, our challenge is to continue to refine our practice as reflective leaders, so we increase in effectiveness. I would suggest that there are 7 Leadership Imperatives that can increase self efficacy and build our own capacity. Keep in mind as a fellow administrator, I am speaking as one on the journey of leadership and learning daily.
This doesn’t mean over communicate through email, mass emails become frustrational and impersonal. Utilize every possible means to get the story of your school out in a way that positively conveys the great culture and learning that you know is taking place. Consider creative ways to push beyond the newsletter and Twitter by using a Smore, Voxer, or video blogs with stakeholders to tell a compelling story. Don’t confuse mass distribution of information with telling a story. Allow the celebrations and learning in your school to be front and center, make it visible.
Value Principles over Rigid Rules
Have a few principles and stick to them, allow those to be hallmarks that others know guide your leadership. Guiding principles are the standard in today’s world, we live in post Newtonian world no longer governed by black and white. Furthermore, we work with kids, lots and lots of grey. When we get bogged down in rigid rules we actually become ineffective. Maintain those few non-negotiables, but consider those areas that truly at the end of the day are simply preferences.
Develop “Next Up” Leaders
Yes, everyone has the capacity for leadership development. However, make it a priority to spend time with your best people, develop the talent that exists within your personal sphere of influence. If the day came that you are no longer the influencer in chief on your campus who will continue the momentum? It is by having focused conversations with your top talent and allowing those emerging leaders to experience actual decision making opportunities that they develop. Many leaders will assign tasks rather than shared ownership of ideas. Give yourself permission to release control to those highly qualified individuals that you are investing in daily. Like a relay runner, know when to pass the baton.
Commit to Taking Care of You
Taking personal time might seem counterintuitive since educators are wired to give of themselves and be poured out so others can benefit. In the process of giving your all to kids, don’t give it all away, or you will have nothing left. Having white space, those moments to recharge, and reflect are crucial for you - plus your family and friends need you too!
Try to Be the “Other Guy”
Leaders can feel the pressure to be the leader they know or have heard about down the street, sorry it doesn’t work. Make a commitment to be uniquely you for your time, setting, and situation. Every organization has it’s own DNA, free yourself to focus on your people, you gain nothing by comparison. Of course, maximize learning from others, but just because it works somewhere else doesn’t mean it will in your setting. Study your culture and find out what you need to start and stop doing immediately.
Believe That the Best Way to Get Results is Top Down
The best ideas never trickle down. Leaders can be very driven and feel the mandate to generate ideas. Focus on believing and instilling a value where the best ideas emerge not from the front office but the classroom. Seek to create a culture and venues where teachers are frequently heard and their ideas showcased. Avoid statements, “we will look into that, “maybe next year,” or “that won’t work” and instead look for opportunities to continue dialogue through PLCs. Listen to and invite student voice. Students often feel like learning is something that happens to them, not something they get to affect. Change will only happen to the level we allow.
Allow the Critics to Interfere with Momentum
Do you need to listen to all stakeholders? Absolutely. We would be foolish not to understand the various points of view that exist. However, in our desire to build consensus we can give more time and attention to the squeaky wheel beyond what is reasonable. Know when to listen, and when it is time to be the leader, making those tough decisions.
So here is to you having a new year and starting well. Drawing on the words of leadership giant, John C. Maxwell, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to start to be great.”