As another school year starts up, our workload and plates will be busy. Before we know it, the end of the school year will be here. The pace of our work is that busy but it is also that important. As a leader, we must be intentional on our growth so that we are growing within our position and profession during the year. It is our moral imperative to strive for excellence for our students and staff. Nevertheless, the question comes up “how do we grow as leaders during the school year” when things are that busy?
As I think about my own growth as a leader and the learned experiences others have shared, the following practices provide for growth during busy times and I hope they bring value to you and your growth:
Be Intentional – In order to grow you must first make it a priority. In other words, you must make a commitment to take part in consistent activities that allow you to grow as a leader. The amount of this work may vary from person to person due to varying factors, but the key is that it is on the forefront of your mind. It may be daily for some, but on a weekly basis for others. However, for leaders they place a high priority on their growth and always are hungry to learn from others. The intentionality comes where leaders put down on paper their goals and action steps to get there. I encourage leaders to think about how they can grow both within their position but also within their profession. The goals on a written document serve as the reminder and sets the course for the work.
Find time to reflect – Reflection may be the most important aspect of growth for a leader. We learn by doing but it is most impactful when we reflect upon the work we tried to implement. The following reflective questions from George Couros and Connected Principals resonate for me as I think about leading major initiatives or as I reflect on a consistent basis:
- What did I do well?
- Where do I need to grow?
- What things will I challenge myself next?
- How will all of these answers impact learners we serve?
- How am I developing others and finding ways for them to lead and grow?
- How am I building sustainable change within the organization?
Find ways to move your school forward by the work of your staff – As David Geurin shares; “it is critical that we are future driven and instill in our school the methods to develop the skills in our learners so they can be successful”. To achieve this work, we must gather feedback from all stakeholders including students, staff and parents. Leading the conversation on how we can be future driven propels not only the school forward, but also the role of the leader and our impact with others. From my perspective, this includes:
- Embracing an open culture where you lead with vulnerability.
- Narrow the focus of your school.
- Challenge each other to think about past practices and can it be innovated.
- Focus on strengths of staff and school community.
Find ways to develop others – The team is always stronger than an individual, so as a leader if we want to grow then we must invest first in ourselves, but then also in our staff. The work where we serve others to develop as learners first and then leaders actually moves our impact to a much higher level. Great schools exist because of teacher leaders. These teacher leaders are empowered by their leaders to be the change – so it is not about the leader but about how the leader can get everyone to understand it is the collective efficacy that is so important. Leaders set the sail and then the teacher leaders (students and parents too) can help drive the innovative practices.
Continually build the culture – The most important aspect that impacts the school is its culture. As Jon Gordon reminds us, leaders must always build their culture and it is achieved through the simplest but most impactful ways. Building culture should always be a priority for leaders and when leaders make relationships/connections the top priority, and then they are growing with their impact and influence they have upon others. Take time and analyze how you can better:
- Be Demanding without being demeaning – it is a fine line of growing staff thru “balance of pressure and support” but staff need to know you have their back as it relates to trying new innovative ideas and it is okay to fail forward.
- Unite the team – The greatest schools have the best cultures so as each school year begins with new staff – what ways will you unite the new folks with your existing staff to create a team vs a group of individuals?
- Connect with the individual – The most important thing leaders can do is find time to get to know their staff and value their contributions. In this day and age, staff need to know they are valued for their work and feel if they are part of something special.
Stay true to your core beliefs – The amount of decisions that leaders face daily can be overwhelming upon school leaders. This includes instructional decisions, building facilities, staff professional learning, discipline and staff issues. While the intentions of every leader is to get better, it is too easy to be caught up in the amount of work and then forget to focus on growth. Leaders understand that at times, management is a necessary part of leadership. However, the efficiency of a leader will never be as important as the effectiveness of a leader. The individual leader must use core beliefs so they remain focused on the right work and consistently use this as a guide to their decisions, communication and priorities.
I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts on ways you grow as a leader during the busy school year. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org