As I progress in my journey and role as an educator, things have become more clear. I observe many educators striving to do their best yet over time leave our profession due to perhaps lack of resources, demands of the job on their time or a desire to have a different impact. I also have observed how some educators, despite good intentions, fall back to average within their role as they believe their impact is minimal. There are also many educators who daily give their best to others and still strive to get better. These observations have provided me opportunities to have an expanded view around school leadership. I recognize that any educator can lead from their role, help others and make significant contributions to a school community. However, too often many educators, including myself, wait for an invitation from someone before taking initiative or believe they need permission before they can lead.
This blog post considers how anyone can lead from their current role and help drive positive change – because leadership matters and so do the contributions of each individual. We must remember that our greatest impact is not something measured by awards or titles but rather the significance we have upon others that allows them to find success. It is also important that we remember “why we do what we do” and how to have an impact during the busiest times or most stressful. Here are some suggestions for educators to remember that leadership matters and strategies to stay focused on what matters most.
3 strategies that maximize your impact
- Purpose – If you can remember why you went into education then that allows you to develop and stay true to your core values. These core values help affirm your work and guide your decisions, even when you are stressed or simply have too much on your plate. Remembering your purpose allows an individual to play the “long game”; simply meaning to continually strive to get better and focus on supporting your growth and to help others.
- Priorities – There have been times when my workload has been simply too much. This has caused me to forget about what truly matters – which are the people we support and work with in our schools – students, staff and families. Keep your priorities at the center of your work as that will allow you to do your job role with the most effective realm and decision making.
- Passion – I hope every educator has a role that allows them to find joy, use their strengths and feel fulfilled. There is no perfect job and there will be parts of it that you may not enjoy but are essential (ex. Paperwork, reports). However, one must remember that within your job you are responsible for the energy, attitudes and beliefs you demonstrate, so it is most important that you incorporate your passion or joy within your job role.
Ways to implement your impact
- Focus on what you can control and what matters – There are many aspects to my current role that are outside of my control. In fact, very little of what I currently do is something I have direct control over. However, how I work with those details matters. An individual can choose to bring a growth mindset and a lens of support, encouragement, positivity and a strive for continually excellence into your work. This not only helps to motivate others but allows them to see a model of what they aspire to see in a leader and builds a level of trust and commitment from others.
- Your rise by lifting others – There are many days that are challenging but the key to continual improvement is also finding opportunities to build others up and develop their skill set; as you cannot achieve anything worthwhile by yourself. It takes a team of people who are committed to developing the best school to drive continual change. When you take time to invest your time, energy and efforts into others then you are not only developing their excellence but you are modeling how you want others to be treated.
- You make change by small conversations – one at a time. Change can be positive and in most instances, the most successful and positive change doesn’t happen with 1 big announcement or event. Rather, it is a one on one conversation with an individual where you take time to help them feel valued, supported by listening and helping them through a difficult situation. These incremental , but yet important moments, shape schools as individuals merge their efforts and attitudes to helping each other and building a culture of “we” and taking pride in their school environment. Experts would typically say it takes 2-3 years before you can notice positive change, so as a leader you cannot rush success but rather create the foundation where others can help create the positive change.
Anyone can lead and help others. Regardless of your job title or role, any person can be a positive leader and help the school community. However, it takes intentional efforts to grow over time as you must reflect upon your efforts so that you can grow which allows you then to help others. Here are some guiding questions to reflect upon that help keep your core values at the center of your work, develop a mindset focused on growth and develop priorities that place people at the center of your time and efforts.
- What is the single most important guiding principle for someone in my position?
- How do I best serve others
- How can I best support my supervisor?
- How can I best support students
- How can I make our team invaluable
Keep in mind that leaders must “model the way”: demonstrate the work ethic, servant leadership, communicate priorities and model vulnerability. This includes:
- Little things may go unnoticed but do have significant impact – Do the jobs that are messy and outside your job role.
- Do things to help people move forward with their careers and growth.
- Adjust to the environment – what works for 1 individual or situation may not work for the next.
- Handle the workload without letting it impact your leadership.
- Recognize staff who can become impact players. Always important to value everyone and help them feel important, but your most important folks are the ones who you need to invest in the most so that they can multiply their impact on others and you add value to their work.
Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leaders must understand how we can be our best and continually improve and this means remembering what we do matters. Our work, our time, our efforts and attitudes all matter as it impacts others. Now is the time to put intentional practices in place where you give yourself grace, develop your skill set and pour into others. Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but learn how to best support your people. 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 what you do matters. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org