I drew a rough draft of the image above in a leadership meeting with Tom Grant. Tom shared this quote on his blog, shortly after the meeting.
“I can think of nothing so conspicuously missing in the effort to improve our schools as the continuous engagement of teachers and principals in constructing visions – in contemplating, for instance, what constitutes desirable leadership, what children should learn, and what the teaching profession might become.” ~ Roland Barth
To be honest, when I came up with this image, it made me feel inadequate as a leader. I want to be both an amazing leader, that fosters a wonderful shared vision, and I want to be an effective manager, that efficiently gets the job done. I don’t think I’m there yet, and despite approaching my 45th birthday, I still sometimes feel like a little kid who is just doing the best he can, with the minimal skills he’s got.
Sometimes I feel like my biggest challenge is to be a more effective manager, so that the operational aspects of my role don’t rob me of my opportunities to lead. Sometimes I feel like no matter how much I do, there is still just too much more to be done.
Am I the only one that feels this way?
I’ve had the opportunity to hear two people I really respect present recently. George Couros presented at our Principal’s and Vice Principal’s conference this past weekend, (hear my podcast with George here, and see what he did with us here). Chris Kennedy spoke in a neighbouring district Monday night and I went to see him present, (see his slides here). In talking to my colleagues and to these two educational leaders, I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one that wishes I had more capacity to do the things I really want to do as a leader.
Tonight I came up with this complimentary image to the one above:
When we, as leaders, intentionally move ourselves out of our comfort zone; when we work on improving our own weaknesses, this is when it is hardest to lead. It is easier to ‘manage’ situations and to distract ourselves with the minutia that we must do. It is hard to make (rather than find) the time to focus on the areas we are working on, and to try to embrace the fear of the unknown. And yet, if we want to be inspiring and effective, we need to role model the ability to push ourselves, the same way we hope to inspire and push others.
The educational landscape is changing right before our eyes. We are at a point in history where ‘standing still’, maintaining the status quo, quite literally means falling behind. One of the greatest challenges of today is to prepare our students to adapt and to be adept in facing change. And this is something we need to model for our fellow teachers and educators as well as our students. This is a daunting task if we set out to do it alone! The incredible thing is that we really don’t need to do it alone.
We need to seek out our mentors that can guide us in the areas we find challenging. We live in an incredibly connected world where we can ask a network of people questions and they can reply, from the other side of the world, in seconds. We can read reflective blog posts that challenge our thinking and help us develop our own stance. We can also find mentors in our own buildings and districts… and they need not be in a hierarchical leadership position… teachers and students can be the best mentors. If we are going to be truly inspirational and visionary, and we are going to foster leadership in others, then we must provide them with leadership opportunities.
It’s pretty cathartic to think that by seeking out mentors to help and guide us, we are actually modeling good leadership and we are inspiring others to connect and learn. After all, we are in the business of learning, so let’s keep the focus on learning!
If you are an educator, then by default you are a leader. We are all working on getting important things done… Together we can truly be agents of positive change. And with that, I’ll end with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to my personal learning network, who help to guide and mentor me. I hope that I can offer you all that you have provided me, and more!