Great schools exist due to its people, but behind every quality school, there is a great leader. It all comes back to leadership. Leadership is a trait that is the topic of many books, blogs, and podcasts and more. In many of these platforms they try to answer the question of “What are the traits that allow some individuals to grow and thrive as a leader?” In this blog, we identify the 10 areas that allow individuals to grow and strive for excellence.
First, it is important for leaders to understand why growth matters. As Dave Ramsey shares, “Organizations are not limited by their opportunities; rather they are limited by their leaders.” This statement resonates with leaders as it helps to understand the significance behind continual growth in our role and in our profession. A leader’s impact is measured by how they develop others. However, to develop others, leaders must first develop themselves. When a leader grows, then everyone wins. My hope is the following areas provide a focus to your growth and bring value to you:
- Mindset – This is pivotal for growth, as someone must understand that growth happens by what you do today, not tomorrow. We must strive to get a little better each day at our craft and how we work with others.
- Develop Core Beliefs – An impactful leader has core beliefs that help guide their work and decision making. These core beliefs often come back to their integrity and values. If a leader has core beliefs, then it will make the decision making consistent and support the right work.
- Challenge Status Quo – Great leaders set out to make a difference, so to achieve that end then individuals must recognize we must continually ask, “How can we make this better” and “why has it been done this way.” Leaders do not change everything, they change the areas that move the school towards excellence and that support the mission and vision.
- Influence Others – As educators develop in their careers they typically aspire to become leaders. This growth pattern allows the individual to recognize at some point that true leadership is not about being the best, but being the best for the team. Leaders focus on developing others and creating sustainable change within their school. A single strong leader cannot take a building as far as a group of committed individuals who have strong collective efficacy. Leadership allows the united efforts of many to come together.
- Intentional Efforts – A key to growth and success is the intentional efforts within the work and day-to-day functions of a school. Leaders recognize that they must be intentional with the following:
- The rapport and connection for others
- Feedback they provide for staff and students
- Modeling desired behaviors
- Sharing one’s vulnerability
- Servant leadership
- Building unity and optimism
The success of a leader is no accident. It is hard work, intentional efforts, perseverance and being passionate about our work.
- Reflection – Most educators are very humble people but can be their own harshest critic. This prevents true reflection from occurring more often. However, we must recognize as John Dewey shares, “We do not learn from experience….we learn from reflecting on experience.” Furthermore, leaders recognize the more reflective they are, then the more impactful they become. Reflecting should also include at some level getting feedback from others. This allows us to see the blind spots within our own thinking that may limit growth. The amount and frequency of reflection can vary…but making it a consistent part of your work is essential for growth.
- Broaden your Learning (Power of PLN) – Leading schools can be an exhausting job and one that is isolating. It is essential that leaders continually learn the most impactful strategies that build their own learning, their leadership, and ways to improve culture and strengthen relationships. Learning from and with others will allow someone to see different perspectives, listen to new ideas, share your thoughts and all of this propels growth.
- Model your work (Be Vulnerable) – The most important part of any school are the relationships of its people. The staff and students do not follow a mission statement. They follow a person first and that only occurs when the leader demonstrates the importance of connection through sharing stories and examples that resonate with others.
- Know your WHY – Leading a school and others can be a balance of many different hats. Without having a true focus, leaders can inadvertently make decisions that do not support the work. If leaders know their “why”, then it allows for greater purpose to your work and helps others to grow, as there is collective mindsets.
- Positivity – Life and leading a school is challenging work. In many cases, there are negative impacts that leaders deal with daily. Nevertheless, we must remember, we “are the thermostat, not the thermometer.” How leaders act, behavior and interact with others set the tone for others. If leaders have a positive outlook then others will follow and also have fun and demonstrate their passion. Being positive does not mean ignoring the negative. Being positive means overcoming the negative.
In closing, there are no great schools without great leaders. It just does not exist. When you have great leaders, then great teachers come, and they stay, they work hard, and they grow too. For educators, we must strive for growth through the areas mentioned above but recognize that growth is a process and takes time. As my mentor reminded me, growth is a “marathon, not a sprint.” I encourage you to use these 10 areas as ways to consider stretching your leadership and propel you forward with growth. As a leader, it is our moral imperative to strive for excellence for our students and staff. I learned over time that it was my responsibility for my own learning and growth – so I developed these areas as ones to propel my skills, attitudes and beliefs as a leader.
I look forward to hearing from you about your reflective thoughts on how you focus on growth and how it applies to your role as a leader. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org