Posts Tagged leadership

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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Trust Nurtures Creativity

Have you ever tried to be creative around someone you know doesn’t trust you, or someone that you don’t trust?  If you have, and you are anything like me, you probably found it very difficult if not impossible to be creative at all.  Trust is extremely important in fostering and nurturing creativity for everyone.  We have to be able to trust and know we are trusted in order to take risks we normally wouldn’t have taken.

Just the other day I had a conversation with a fellow educator whose building and district were requiring all teachers to give common end-of-unit assessments.  These common assessments were created by an individual or small group of people to insure that all students are held to the same standards district-wide.  After thinking about this further, I began to question deeper what impact this could, and probably will, have on education and, more importantly, our students and future leaders.

To me, this implementation of common end-of-unit assessments says something to all of the educators required to give them.  It tells them that their leaders don’t trust them.  Their leaders don’t trust that the teachers know and understand what levels of mastery their students should be held to.  They don’t trust that they will even teach the standards at all.  They don’t trust that they will hold all of their students to the same level of mastery.  They don’t trust that their educators can and will create strong assessments aligned to the standards.

Why don’t they trust all of this?  What other supports could be put in place to help educators hold students to a common standard, teach and assess from the Core, and create strong assessments, yet still tells everyone involved, “I trust you.”

Why not push your teachers to have conversations in learning communities about each of these things?  Give them the resources needed and have the conversations around each of these things that stretch and push each other.  And, if someone is not holding his or her students to an appropriate level, then have the conversation with him or her about this and take care of it in a way that doesn’t stunt and stifle the level of trust everyone else deserves.

Our teachers need to feel trusted.  They need to feel free to take risks and try new things.  There hasn’t been a time in education before where creativity was needed more.  Our students don’t operate the same as they did in the past.  They now want and need things to be more relevant to their interests.  They need to know and see why it is important to learn.  And, they expect the assessments to have some kind of value to them.  In order for all of this to happen, our teachers must have the ability to create personalized assessments that still hold each and every student to the same level.  That takes incredible levels of creativity.

Teaching used to be called an art.  Some of us are now trying to make it a science.  Why can’t we have the best of both worlds?  We must be careful with the message we are sending with our initiatives.

What initiatives are you currently doing that limit trust?  What are you going to do about them?  Trust your teachers and nurture the creativity inside them.  This will pay off royally later.  Trust me.

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