Our education system, country and world are in unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 virus. Leaders of schools are facing challenges that rarely have even been discussed in graduate classes or conversations that started “what if”, yet alone in the current reality. But it is real…very real and close to everyone’s homes. During these trying times it reminds us that our ultimate responsibility is not just as an educator or a leader but rather as a human being. It is our moral responsibility to follow the guidelines of our health department, leadership and make responsible choices as our behaviors may impact others. It is during adversity, that leadership comes to the surface.
As we are in this change in our society, the adversity of the situation has forced numerous decisions by leaders. I am not judging anyone’s decisions as they have had to make tough decisions that impact lives. I respect their decisions and how they have had to weigh so many factors into decisions. What I have noticed from school leaders is how their leadership has surfaced during adversity and reminds me the importance of strong leaders and the impact they have leading organizations. Their leadership helps guide many into a pathway towards success.
The following traits are areas that I have noticed school leaders demonstrate as they make tough situations.
- Operate from core values
When leaders must make the tough decisions regarding schools, they are thinking of the most important thing – people. Yes, that is the ultimate guide when making tough decisions – how does the current situation impact the safety of the students, staff and families. There are many things to consider when making decisions, but knowing that people are our primary concern it provides a guiding force to always refer to and make sure is our “north star”.
2. Make well-informed decisions
In today’s social media age, it is very difficult to know what information is correct and which is not accurate but rather an individual’s opinion. Leadership is marked not by how we respond when we know what to do, but rather how we respond and behave when we don’t know what to do. Leaders bring a sense of assurance to the constantly changing situation and give people confidence that all will be fine. Leaders gather the facts from credible sources and consider all perspectives to make the right decisions.
3. Make decisions part of collective group
A leader has great judgement and understands the “100,00 foot viewpoint” of their school or district.” However, this situation is one that we have never had to even consider in our modern age, so it is wise that leaders make well informed decisions that are part of a larger collective. It reminds me of the quote, “the smartest person in the room, is the room.” Leaders recognize this is not the time to be right, but rather most important to make the right decisions and sometimes that means asking for help, seeking guidance and learning with others.
4. Model how you want others to behave and operate
Our current situation is one that is still changing and evolving, so we are not sure of the end result. What we do know is that it never helps if leaders are panicked, are unstable and demonstrate poor behaviors. What does help everyone is when leaders remain steadfast, calm, positive and provide a reassurance that they have everyone’s best interest at heart. It comes down to taking care of people and that means leaders must connect with people with clear and authentic communication.
True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. All leaders will experience failures, challenging situations and adversity. The leaders that operate from core values demonstrate excellence and many qualities during the challenging times that reassure others that they will be okay and that together, we will move through this challenge and come out on the other side better for it. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve.
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