Sunday, February 19, 2017

Challenge of Leadership

      If you've never been to a ropes course, I highly recommend going with some friends, your family,  faculty, and even your students. It's a fun day of team building and problem-solving. Many activities require balance and/or balancing someone or something. A person or team must make hundreds of micro-adjustments to maintain the right amount of push, pull, tight and loose tension on the ropes or distribution of weight to complete the challenges. A ropes course also requires a high amount of trust, risk-taking, encouragement, and individual commitment to the team effort. Of course, there's also a lot of celebration throughout the process as teams and individuals conquer fears and solve problems together.
     I think school leadership is a lot like a ropes course. There are so many parts that must have balance for the whole team or organization to experience success. One of those parts is the balance between being friendly, supportive, and holding people accountable to high standards of excellence.
     Most people want to be "liked" but as a leader, being trusted and respected are more important. A leader's responsibility is to drive sustainable change and to build other leaders. That can only happen if the leader is respected. What can school leaders do to build trust and respect?

Develop Relationships: Treat all people with respect every day. Listen with the intent of understanding. Show empathy. Expect others in the school to show respect to students, parents, colleagues, and other stakeholders every day and all the time. Do not tolerate sarcasm, yelling, or arguing. Model expectations.

Communicate: Clearly communicate values, high expectations, purpose, and vision. Be honest. Do not shy away from the crucial conversations that are inevitable. Leaders can have conversations that come from a place of caring that stretch and help others to grow without tearing them down.

Demonstrate Courageous Leadership: Be willing to take risks, seek feedback (from those with different perspectives), and take people farther than they thought they could go. Be an advocate for kids and stand up with conviction against the status quo to provide better educational experiences. Show an undying commitment to those whom you serve.

     Some leaders lead with a hammer, some with carrots to dangle. Neither are very effective alone. Once again, there is a need for balance. It's the tight and loose leadership. For sustainability, a leader needs to build trust, respect, and lead with their heart.

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