Posts Tagged leaders

Lead With Yourself

I was recently selected to be a part of Des Moines Public Schools’ Principal Pipeline program.  When selected I was honored and deeply humbled.  I remember looking around a room of around 200 leaders in the district and seeing all of the faces I had learned from.  I had one big question.  Why me?  There were a ton of great leaders in that room.  Matt Smith, Chief of Schools in Des Moines, came into my office to answer any questions I had about the program.  I specifically asked him that question and he had a good answer, but it really didn’t help me truly understand why.  He then asked me what I thought I needed to improve in the most, and my response was, my confidence.  Confidence in myself, but mostly the confidence in all of the decisions I would be expected to make as a principal.  I was not able to articulate this very well to him in that moment, but after a lot of reflection I am able to articulate it a little better now.

Fast forward several weeks and we have our first class.  There are eight people who have been selected for this program, all sitting around a table with a few other leaders in the district including Matt.  We have only had two meetings, but both have required us to search deep within ourselves to know who we are and what we are about.  We have been pushed to make decisions based purely and completely on knowing ourselves.  It has truly been an awesome experience and has given me the opportunity to reflect deeply on who I am and what I am about.  I look forward to my Monday classes that last from 4:00 until 8:00.  I find myself not wanting to leave the room with these amazing people who care so much about each and every person in their lives.  And, it is also pushing me and has helped me to find that confidence in who I am, that I will need to have in order to make the decisions every principal has to make.

I have learned so much already, and the biggest lesson I have learned so far is the importance of knowing and leading with yourself.  Know what you value and what you hold most important.  Know what it is that you work for each and every day.  Know your core.  I have always known this, and was taught this by a very close friend and mentor, Jason Ellingson.  However, I needed another reminder to help me find my confidence again.  I know deep in my heart that I have the best interest for all involved at the core of every decision I make.  I know that I value love, trust, relationships, creativity, learning, collaboration, and continuous improvement.  I know that if I value all of these things, and I keep these values at the forefront of every decision I make, I will make decisions that are good for everyone.

Revisiting my values has helped me to find my confidence again and has helped me understand my, “WHY ME?” question.  I have always had the confidence and strong values in myself, and always will.  Sometimes it just needs a little TLC to bring it back out again.  Great leaders know who they are and what they value most.  Their vision for where they are going and why they do what they do is always at the core of every decision they make.  Do you know who you are, what you value most, your WHY?  If not, maybe it’s time you took a little time to reflect on it.  After all, if you want to be a great leader, you must always Lead With Yourself.

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Lead From the Side

Most of us are leaders of some kind or another.  Whether it be the leader of your family, a group of friends, a team, or even a person that someone looks up to, you more than likely are a leader whether you want to be or not.  Think back on all the leaders you have had and which ones have had the greatest positive impact on your life.  I would be willing to bet that many times the people who have had the greatest positive impact on your life are those that walk with you as opposed to those who either walk ahead or behind you.  By giving people the power of choice, helping them think through their choices, and then walking on the path with them, strong relationships are built.

I have made the mistake of leading over a group of people and as a result hurt many people and injured many relationships that I am still struggling to repair.  It takes a great deal of time and energy to build strong, trusting relationships that are needed to help move any one person and any organization forward.  Yet, it only takes a moment and one action to destroy them.

When you are leading, where do you lead from?  Are you leading from above, watching over everyone and talking over people?  Are you leading from in front or behind, pulling and/or pushing people along when they don’t want to move in the first place?  Are you leading from below, holding people up that are continuously sinking on their own?  Or, are you going on a journey with the people close to you, helping them, supporting them, and creating stronger relationships along the way that only create stronger people as a result?

You might be thinking that pulling, pushing, and holding people up are the most efficient ways to get them to move, even if only a little bit.  And, you are probably right when looking at the short term.  However, if you want to nurture someone to become independent, resilient, creative, and a problem solver on their own, you must take the longer path and enjoy the walk with them.  The payoff in the end will be much higher.

So, the next time you find yourself in a position of leadership, take a look at yourself and make sure you are only leading from one place, right next to the person or people you are working with.  Lead from the side!  The payoff in the end will be huge for everyone involved.

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