Every educator that goes into the field has the aspiration to be great and make a difference. I truly believe this concept. However, over time many educators become stagnant, settle for what has worked in the past and fall back to average. This is not anyone’s fault – it is the result of being in a challenging field that is constantly changing, having many demands put on their plate and trying to find a balance between their work and personal life. In fact, many educators reach a plateau after years 2-3 in the profession where they no longer have the same goals as they once did, as a student teacher entering their first professional job. They settle for being “good”.
As a leader, our role includes supporting others, providing feedback and helping to develop excellence in each employee. To do this, leaders must be intentional with their work and understand it is not about the leader per say, but about how they can develop others and help them to maximize their role as an educator. When each employee is focused on growth and moves their growth “from their own Point A to Point B”, then leaders have created the conditions where the employees are focused on excellence and students are thriving as learners. As we take a deeper look into leadership, the following aspects are what separate those educators that are growing in their work versus those that show up and just do the job. In other words, what “characteristics separate leaders moving from good to great”. The following attributes are common in educators that are growing in their roles and continue to have positive impact upon others:
Passion. This trait may be the most important for any educator to have in their career. If someone has the passion to continue to learn the strategies, read new research and reflect upon their work then they will grow over time. You can spot someone who has passion as they care more, give more effort and work harder than others. That is passion and it can be found in any career but in education if you have a passionate educator then you will find someone who makes others better and continually improves in their craft. They bring it daily and their positivity and drive is contagious. If you have a passionate educator, their impact is magnified and helps to make others better.
2. Connect with others
Educators who grow into impactful and great leaders recognize the importance of connecting with others. They recognize that they do not know it all – they are vulnerable and have a willingness to admit that they can learn from others. The mantra “focus on doing the right work, not doing things right” reflects these educators as part of doing the right things is connecting with other like minded educators. This stretches their thinking, allows shared ideas and provides different perspectives which challenges their status quo. This is how someone grows over time – by learning with and from others.
3. Seek Feedback and Reflect
As educators progress in their careers many work hard, in fact they work extremely hard. They also have a desire to get better. However, just because someone works hard does not mean they will improve. In fact, if someone works hard in isolation in many instances it may lead to frustration and burn out as there is no support, feedback and encouragement. It is vital that educators do seek feedback and reflect – both individually but also with the help from others. This is why being connected to other like minded educators is so important. When we seek feedback from those we serve, it helps us to see our blindspots. But just as important, it allows us to validate the importance of others and helps the individual to recognize how they can make those they serve better. This amplifies the impact of an educator. The reflection is a necessity for any growth to occur as it allows someone to see what went well, how to adjust and areas of strengths but also areas of deficit. This awareness allows more intentional work to occur that over time will lead to greater impact.
4. Staying Humble
As educators improve and increase their significance, it is vital they stay Humble. This allows the individual to remember:
- They do not know it all and must be a lifelong learner
- See others as someone they can learn from
- Be open to new ideas that may lead to greater impact
- As Author Jon Gordon shares, being humble “doesn’t mean you think less of yourself, it means you think of yourself less.” In other words, it helps the person to remember that true leadership is about impact upon others.
Any educator will have setbacks or tough moments. It is important for leaders to have a Focus as that allows them to tune out the negatives and stay positive in those instances. In fact, leaders learn the most from times when there are setbacks as they reflect and adjust their work. There will be negative people out there who do not like change or asked to do something different for the betterment of kids. This is when leaders must tune out the distractions and stay focused on the right work of developing self that allows them to develop others. This can only happen when there is a focus to the work that revolves about Core Values, emphasis placed on significance of moments/experiences rather than being right and creating the conditions for the individual and others for positive change.
True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. By reflecting upon your impact as a leader and how you develop others then you can gain more insight on how you can move from good to great as a leader. 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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