Most educators are in summer or will be in a few short weeks. This is an important time so one can get needed rest, re-charge and do things other than our job roles. The next school year will be here soon. Some educators will be in their same positions next year but others will be in a new position, new school or even outside of education. As we all start the summer break at some point, our impact from all of our hard work this past year will be measured by those we worked with and work for and how they carry forward into next year the skills, habits and culture with those around them. How many “footprints” we leave behind us or how much our impact lasts depends upon the significance of our work and influence we developed in others.
This blog considers what is the work that will allow you to have significance and influence with others so that you can leave footprints in the sand or in other words – your impact will carry on once you are no longer in that role. There are many strategies or attributes one could work on to ensure their impact occurs over time. But we will focus on the most essential that transcend any building level or role and apply to anyone who is in charge of leading others and creating positive change.
Building others up and developing leaders
As John Maxwell has shared, “leadership is influence, nothing more – nothing less.” When leaders take an approach where they focus on building staff up and helping them grow, they are positively impacting the entire school community. To do this, leaders must recognize they need to lead with humility, find the strengths of each member of their team and find ways for that person to contribute. When leaders take an invested role and go one step further and coach their staff who are committed to growth then those staff multiply their impact as staff develop as leaders and the organization move forward. It is better to lead with a strong team and not an individual person.
Culture within the organization
This is where you must start and always focus on as a leader to create a ripple of positive change. This work should include activities with students, staff and families or all stakeholders within the organization. Examples of ways leaders can build this culture are most important in their daily habits and what they model by example but can also include Staff PD, Staff appreciation, Empowering staff, listening to students and partnering with parents within the school experience.
Connect with staff is important on many levels
Leaders must develop and communicate a shared vision. But people don’t follow data or a mission statement; they follow someone they believe in. Leaders must connect with their staff so staff have a sense of a broader purpose that is united by human connectedness. Staff will work hard for anyone as they are in it for kids, but for staff to give the “extra” that does truly make the difference they must believe in the people that lead them. This starts by building trust. This is developed and achieved through a focus on the human characteristics – empathy, vulnerability and valuing the people within our walls.
Developing the growth mindset of your school
A school community that develops into an excellence school is one where there is a focus on continual improvement and focus on growth. Growth of each person where they continually learn and strive to get better. An important part of this work is reflection. Leaders must model reflection and imbed this as part of the work. This should include reflecting upon past experiences and then identifying what practices will be put in place moving forward for growth.
Leaders set the tone
I do believe that leaders include everyone within an organization, not just the administrators. However, it is also true that it’s human nature for people to notice what the “leaders” are doing. As a result, I remind myself that if it is important to build culture then I should:
- Model the behaviors that we want in the building.
- Show that it is okay to make mistakes and admit when I am wrong.
- “Be the thermostat not the thermometer” – in other words it is important to be consistent, calm and purposeful with our work.
- Empower others to lead and give them chances to grow within our culture,
- Take care of the staff and show how much I appreciate their efforts. As Simon Sinek points out that “Yes, we want to develop leaders and from that we know that someday they may leave for greater leadership opportunities but it is also true that you should treat them so well that they do not want to leave”. Very well said!
In summary, educators go into this profession to make a difference and to help others. How many “footprints” we leave behind us tells our story of our work. This work takes passion-persistence-patience. How we work with others needs to have enthusiasm, empathy for others and empower others to take part in developing the culture. If you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others. Great schools exist because of the teachers/staff so all of our focus should come back to building the culture with the people that work directly with our students.By recognizing these components then you are more intentional with your time, efforts and energy and can pour into others. Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support the overall purpose of pursuing excellence and help to create their “footprints” within their organization. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “Leaving Footprints in the sand” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org