As schools are on summer break or begin shortly, leaders now face the reality of next year and the COVID impact, racial tension and other challenges as well. As I reflect on how I have led and will need to lead in the future to best support our school, I recognized many of the attributes I need to use I learned from prior experiences before becoming an administrator. With the upcoming Father’s Day approaching, I wanted to share how as a parent, and my perspective is that of a Father, has helped me become a better leader. These experiences are not unique to me as other people may have similar viewpoints or even more to add to the conversation.
When I graduated from college and began my teaching career I thought I understood what being an effective educator meant. Wow, was I wrong as I learned so much from the beginning years of my teaching experience. I remind myself of the quote “What we know now doesn’t make yesterday wrong, it makes tomorrow better”. I kept that phrase in mind when I began administration as I thought the experiences as a teacher leader would prepare me well for a leadership position. To some extent it did, but so much of leadership is character, attitude and how we connect with others. These experiences I developed and enhanced to a greater extent when I became a parent. Specifically, being a Father helped me grow as a leader the following ways:
- Leadership begins with Trust – As a young parent I learned quickly how my children trusted me. They trusted me to guide them, care for them and be there for support. How I did this was through sincere care (character) and consistency (competence). These same traits helped me to better serve our staff which in turn can care for our students. Our school communities turn to school leaders for guidance and they trust us to provide the direction their children need.
- Leaders set the Tone – There were many moments (and there still are) when as a dad I get tired and quite frankly, frustrated, with my children’s decisions. But I remind myself that they are finding their way, learning and experiencing things for the first time. My role as a father is to help be positive, help them reflect/learn and grow from those experiences. As a leader, I use this same mindset as our staff must adjust to COVID or as we grow in student centered instruction or blended learning. Change is constant; it’s how we grow through the experiences that count.
- Don’t be afraid to fail – As a young parent I made many mistakes that now I can laugh at. From changing diapers, cooking more, playing house….endless memories. But each adventure I became better at simply because I was willing to try and found a better way. The same can be said for leaders….if we are willing to take risks and learn from those experiences then staff see that and are more likely to also take risks as the conditions for positive change are in place and are the norm.
- Adjust your leadership style if needed – Some may argue being a parent is easier when the children are young. Others would say as they grow and become more independent a parent’s role is easier. I am not sure which is more accurate. But I do recognize that I had to adjust to my kids and what they needed as they grew in various stages of life. This is much like leadership…we must adjust to the needs of the school and those we serve. Each year has different challenges so the important thing is not just adjusting but as David Geurin shares, “Be Firm with your principles and flexible with your practices.”
- Start by being a good follower and teammate – I am fortunate as a father that I have a loving and supportive wife. She has provided the foundation for our family and supports me even when I make mistakes. As a father, to help develop our family unit I recognized if I was supportive of my wife and was similar in how we expected things of our children then we could be better raising our children together. As a leader, I remind myself often that “It’s not about being the best on the team, but the best for the team.” We must support our district, other schools and district leaders so that our school works well within the school system as we connect and provide a quality K-12 school experience.
- Develop other leaders – A parent’s primary role is developing your children so they can lead productive, healthy, happy lives while developing independence. As a school leader, I now recognize how important it is to develop other leaders as leadership is about influence and impact upon others. I now focus on intentional ways to inspire others, give them confidence to lead, and influence their thinking and behaviors that will lead to further positive changes for their growth and the school. We are better together when everyone grows as learners.
True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to an improved school. I encourage all leaders to reflect upon your prior experiences as a parent or growing up and how those experiences have shaped you as a leader. When you can self-analyze your past and what you learned from those experiences, it allows you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading others. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org