As leaders rest and recharge over the summer for the upcoming school year there will be opportunities for reflection and growth. For some individuals this may include participating in conferences, graduate work and work within their roles in their district. For educators there is a desire to improve their craft and help impact others. This blog post shares that the greatest challenge in leadership starts with leading yourself and how that can be done.
There are many conferences, social media posts and opportunities for educators to learn how to improve. Most of this involves improving others or the teams that you are a part of. While this is important work and can improve your school organization, the top leaders point out that this work all starts with first leading yourself. If you cannot lead yourself and improve your leadership, then why would others follow you and how could you develop and influence them? If you think about the role of a leader within an organization there are several common areas the job focuses on:
- Setting direction
- Developing the learner
- Developing others
- Making the organization work
To help each of these areas improve in your organization you must first understand how you must improve your own leadership skills so that you can apply the work to your organization. Here are key areas to focus on to improve your leadership first before pouring into others:
- Lead yourself daily
This sounds simple but can be very challenging due to the variety of tasks leaders face, multitude of decisions and trying to balance work and personal life. There are areas to consistently focus on within your day that build over time and produce significant results. This includes:
- Managing your time so you focus on priorities and areas that deliver results.
- Manage your energy and emotions so you do not put efforts into areas that distract from the work.
- Manage your thinking so you can focus on being solution focused, setting a vision and on growth.
- Managing the areas mentioned above allow you to focus on managing your personal life so you can have a balance which is essential for long term impact.
- Be a lifeline learner who is committed to growth. This is done by consistently reading, listening and learning from others who also are demonstrating excellence and growth. You cannot lead without being a learner as the landscape is constantly changing. The only way to be effective is to learn and apply those new ideas to your work that allows for personal and professional growth.
Most leaders who underperform and over time have little impact are not due to someone’s talent or work ethic. Instead, it is because the leader is unable to communicate to others that make a relationship connection. Communication matters. Here are some important reminders for leaders when they communicate that allow them to be effective at sharing the message and resonating with others.
- Be authentic with your message through sharing a story or an idea that the readers/listeners can connect with.
- Keep your message clear, simple and to the point so there is clarity and no confusion.
- Focus on 1-2 key ideas that allow everyone to understand your purpose, what you are about and how you are trying to improve the organization.
- Lead exceptionally well
Before you can help develop others and lead an organization you must demonstrate that you lead yourself at a high level. People will follow the leader first and then the vision or message. Here are some strategies you can use to demonstrate that you are leading at a high level:
- Be consistent with your efforts and lead with character that places decisions on what is best for others.
- Go the extra mile as that is the difference between good vs. great. That means at times you may need to take the tough job or be willing to do what others will not.
- Always develop and share a solution when you mention a problem – be solution focused.
- Be a team player for the organization as that makes you a part of something bigger and helps others connect with you.
- Be action oriented and “walk the walk” by living your core values through your actions and how you treat others.
- Lead with humility as the position is not about you but rather how you can make the position one of influence upon others.
- Invest in relational chemistry
The most effective leaders are those that have influence with others. To develop this influence, you must first be someone who has the attributes that allow others to be drawn to you, connected and then believe in you as a person and then as a leader. This is achieved by incorporating the following strategies:
- Listen to others before talking so you know their priorities and how you can connect to them.
- Learn someone’s strengths, work with their weaknesses.
- Be willing to admit your mistakes and be vulnerable enough to share this with others.
- Believe that everyone on your staff or within your organization is a “10”. How you view people matters as that is how each individual will feel when they interact with you. Everyone has strengths and areas to improve but if you can focus on their value and what they bring to your school organization then it allows the trust to be built over time.
In summary, educators go into this profession to make a difference and to help others. This work takes passion-persistence-patience. How a person makes a difference may vary from organization to organization but a common trait for all leaders of influence is that they know how to lead themselves at a high level first before they try to develop and lead others. If you want to create a difference then you must be willing to lead yourself first. By recognizing and understanding this importance, you can be intentional with your time, efforts and energy that allows you to be your best version of yourself. Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support the overall purpose of pursuing excellence and help to ultimately create their influence 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 “Greatest Challenge in Leadership – leading yourself” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org