In a world where we can collect data on almost anything and we can use computers to help calculate specified criteria, the most important qualities in schools go beyond this. Schools function as a way to help young people learn, grow from experiences and be empowered to change society. This only happens if educators and schools focus on what matters most – the interactions between the people!
In this blog post, we look at 3 skills leaders must use to build the positive interactions of the people of the school including students, staff and parent community. It is through these areas that we then are able to leverage positive change, build effective instructional strategies for deep learning and empower others to strive for excellence. Here are the 3 skills leaders must focus on within their work.
- Build Connections
Leaders must recognize that all work that is truly effective occurs from the bottom up, not top down. In other words, when staff believe they are trusted and valued as people, they will devote their efforts and energy towards the mission. Leaders must always be working on building connections with staff, students and parents. How we interact with others, both verbal and nonverbal, impacts how others feel about themselves and their behaviors. We must place a high value on helping others feel a sense of belonging and that the school is “our school”. This is achieved over time through small behaviors such as the fist bump to a teacher who tried something new, a high five to a student who just achieved a new personal best and the listening to a parent when they express concern for their child. This builds the “family” atmosphere, which is essential to help make school so much more than the brick and mortar. It is important leaders never forget that humor, laughter and the human connection is what makes others feel connected to you as a leader.
- Share Vulnerability
It is not easy for leaders to share with others our mistakes and failures, but that authentic vulnerability is the spark for cooperation and trust. This demonstrates to others that you have weaknesses but that you also are willing to work hard, have a growth mindset and be resilient as you strive to improve. This type of modeling is often the “tipping point” towards positive change. Leaders achieve vulnerability through active listening, sharing their mistakes, over-communicating expectations and embracing discomfort.
- Common Purpose
There are so many initiatives and tasks that school leaders are faced with as we strive to improve. It is essential for leaders to keep the focus simple and “laser like” for their staff so there is a clear understanding of the purpose of the work. We must communicate our vision through stories, emotions and create engagement around the priorities that orient everyone’s behavior towards the goal.
The skills listed above allow leaders to build the culture of the school to focus on what matters most. To achieve this work, leaders must recognize the following qualities they must be consistently incorporating into their work:
- Learn – It is essential that leaders make time to get better at their skills and learn from the true practitioners in the field and their best practices.
- Engage – Develop a sense of trust with stakeholders so that everyone has a vested interest in our work and is actively involved.
- Adapt – Continuous change will happen in education, so as leaders we must continually adapt our growth to provide the support of others.
- Delegate – Collaborative leadership and maximizing the strengths of others is essential. This builds the confidence and their capacity to lead.
- Empower – By providing opportunities for others to learn and try new things, we are giving them chances to take risks, remove fear and provide innovative opportunities.
- Reflect – Learning is most impactful when we reflect upon that learning experience. It is not important how a person reflects, but making that a consistent part of your work is essential as it helps to drive your behaviors, attitudes and efforts.
- Serve –Servant leadership is modeling the behaviors we seek, empowering others to try new approaches and put the needs of the school above you.
By focusing on what matters most, leaders are able to create the conditions that allows others to grow professionally, support others and have positive connections for everyone. I would be curious on what you believe matters most in your work as a leader. Reach out to me with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org