Change management takes time, finesse, and dedication. There are components to successful and sustainable change that are quite necessary. There needs to be a well-developed, and well-articulated vision. Goals, action steps, and strategy built from that vision come next. But the bottom line of this quote is the most important of all: the people. All stakeholders are important and should be included in clear communication. Not only that, they should be included in the vision planning and the strategizing for bringing about change. If people are put first, they are more likely to buy-in to the vision, support it, and maintain it.
Passion+Commitment+ An open mind+Space to flourish=Success in Leadership
I am a passionate person, in general. Get me talking about education, innovation, and leadership and you’ll see that even quicker. And, wow, when I get to talk to a like-minded person, the energy is off the charts. I became an educational consultant because I’m passionate about K-12 education. I’m committed to working with district, school, and classroom leaders to nurture innovation, enhance learning and provide the best education for our students today. In order to do this, I have to be open to new ideas and be in a constant state of learning myself. The biggest blessing is loads of passionate educators already on my calendar for “work” who feel the same way I do. How do you experience success in leadership?
I’ve often written about leadership as it’s an area of interest for me and something about which I’m passionate. I’m even going to make the claim that I’ve always had characteristics of a leader. While I was somewhat shy as a child, I could organize my group of friends at recess like nobody’s business. I lived in the country without many neighbors, but the two (younger, ahem) neighbor girls that I played with always heeded my direction. Okay, so they didn’t have much choice, but it worked for me, nevertheless. As I entered adolescence, and then young adulthood, those leadership skills were somewhat dormant as I battled teenage angst and all that goes with it. Later, they reemerged as a classroom teacher and then continued to strengthen and grow when I became a curriculum director. It was during this stint as an administrator, that I really began to study and analyze leadership styles. I also began graduate work in school administration during this time, and the program I studied under was built around servant leadership. Now, in my first year as an entrepreneur, I’m learning more about organizational leadership as a whole, and not just as it relates to school systems.
Every organization consists of stakeholders in various roles. And every organization has a hierarchy of sorts. I would argue a very simple point that the better the leadership, the better the organization as a whole. I’ve had the pleasure of working for, and with, fantastic leaders, mediocre leaders, and poor leaders. An organization can appear to flourish even under poor management if the people under them are stellar individuals. The breakdown occurs more quickly when the poor leader holds strings too tightly (micromanager, bullier, power-monger), or if they are left unchecked by the governing board. I have actually talked to members of a school board who act as though the superintendent is their boss, rather than the other way around. That mindset baffles me, but knowing the superintendent (who would fit any of the titles in the previous parentheses), I can understand how they are a bit blind to their position in the hierarchy.
I have also discovered that it is fairly common for organizations to lack protocols for procedures and processes within the workflow system. There may be unwritten expectations, but these do little good to the new (or transferred) employee or in the event something out of the ordinary occurs. The question becomes, “Whose job is it?” I’ve had the pleasure to sit with various leadership teams and lead them through a discovery session to get these protocols in place. We spend a couple of hours talking through various processes and determining roles. This requires getting the right people in a room together. It requires collaboration and good communication, on-the-spot problem solving, and mostly, a willingness to listen. It is typically very eye-opening for all in the room. Most of these processes have never been discussed, and especially not in a cohesive group setting. The next step is to put all of these discoveries into print. Clear documentation of job roles and responsibilities, workflow, and protocols makes everything run more smoothly, and an organization easier to lead and manage. The hierarchy is clear, and more useful to all involved.
When a strong, trustworthy leader is in place, and stakeholder roles are evident, the organization’s success comes naturally.
The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort
of each individual.
When I was an undergrad, I had to write my philosophy of education. I don’t remember every word of that paper, but the foundation was that everyone can learn, has the right to learn, and should be taught in the manner in which they learn best. Those beliefs remain the cornerstone of my philosophy of education today.
As an educational leader, that’s also the basis of my leadership philosophy. When I was completing my school administrator licensure, we studied many different leadership styles. My program was all centered around the servant leadership style, but that is my philosophy of leadership, as well. As a servant leader, I believe that trust is at the center of any successful organization. Trust can’t be built until relationships are formed. I truly do the work I do to help teachers, administrators, and indirectly, the students. Most likely my career won’t make me rich and famous. Of course, I didn’t go into teaching with those goals in mind, but with the intent to serve others. In the beginning, I served the elementary students in my classroom. Those kids knew they were wanted and welcomed in our classroom every day. They knew that I cared about them, and that I would push them to do their best every day. Yes, I knew their reading skills and math abilities. But I also knew how they worked in groups, whether they were more introverted or extroverted, what genres they preferred to read, and how organized they were. I knew who they usually played with at recess, and who their siblings were. I talked with their parents, and learned about their home lives. I did all of that through building authentic, trusting relationships with each child.
I no longer teach elementary students, but building relationships remains a top priority to me so that I can be the most effective educational consultant and coach as possible.
Sometimes I work with a group of teachers and administrators for only one day. Sometimes I get to return to their districts many times throughout a school year. Regardless of how much time I spend with each group, I need to quickly decipher their needs, fears, and strengths. I do that through talking with them, and more importantly, by listening. Servant leaders don’t “take over” a room. They empower those around them to find their strengths and share them with the group.
I don’t believe that servant leaders are only leaders when they are doing “official” work. Here’s a personal example: I was waiting in the Indianapolis airport for my flight and noticed the older gentleman beside me grading papers. So, of course, I asked him if he was a teacher (dumb question, I know, but it was a conversation starter so give me a little break). He (obviously) said yes. As we talked more about what I had taught, and what I do now, he shared that he had a third-grade grandson who was recently adopted from Kenya. He shared that the young boy can read wonderfully, having been taught in British English in Kenya, but was having trouble with comprehension. Since I taught second grade for many years, he asked for my advice. We had a wonderful conversation as I shared ways to help improve his grandson’s reading comprehension. He was so kind and complimentary to me, and I was a bit embarrassed by the praise. I was just sharing from my experience and knowledge, plus I was energized from the conversation because I was discussing something dear to my heart.
This is what servant leaders do! It’s not a job. It’s not a position. And it’s more than a philosophy or style of leadership. It’s part of who we are.
What is your leadership philosophy?
(Photo and design credits to S.Y.D. Graphic Designs)
A few years ago, I chose actions instead of one word for my year. They were Choose Joy, Be Kind, and Just Believe. Last year, the word I chose was shameless. The resulting post was called Shameless in 2015. This year, I feel like my one word for 2016 chose me. Empowered. I’ve been percolating on that word for the last few weeks. I’ve been excited to reflect upon 2015, and write this post about 2016, because I just feel it. I feel empowered – maybe for the first time in a really long time. What does it mean to empower and to be empowered? Some words come to mind:
I’ve done many new (and sometimes scary) things over the past year. I started my own business. I have driven in many (big!) unfamiliar cities. I’ve had a few articles published. I have made new friends, and new business associates (it’s awesome when one becomes the other, as well). I have taken control of my own life, setting goals for my own future, and driving a vision for my own career. All of this is empowering. Some very difficult life experiences led me down the path to empowerment. I didn’t like these experiences. I walked through some challenging, frustrating, overwhelming, and heartbreaking moments at times. Do I want to face that junk again? Of course not. But I can say that I’m stronger and happier now because of the experiences. Life doesn’t just happen – we make it happen.
I chose to be strong, set goals, and press on.
I looked at my passions and saw the vision of where they could take me.
My confidence grew with my determination.
I am a leader.
I am empowered.