Anyone who regularly reads my blog would know that in the last year there are two key elements of leadership that I have been struggling with. The more current one involves the teacher dispute going on in BC and my sense of frustration and feelings of helplessness as I watch a good educational system suffer in ways that will take some time to recover from. The other element that I’ve struggled with is the time that my position demands that I spend on things that are more management than leadership oriented… while recognizing that both of these are required in being an effective leader.
Leading in a time of Change:
There are a lot of sayings like, ‘If you aren’t moving forward, then you are falling behind’, which have us constantly looking at how we can make things better, cheaper, and faster… there are always ways to improve what we do, and we can always do better! That said, three things come to mind when thinking about leadership and change:
1. Lead by example – If we aren’t willing to change ourselves, we can’t expect others to change;
2. Share the leadership – If you think you can get others to ‘buy into’ your ideas, you will not progress nearly as fast as if your team shared in the design of what’s changing. Leadership is cooperative, not coercive. (See my post on Leading Change, the importance of the change has to be greater than the challenge that all involved experience);
3. Change takes time – It never happens as quickly as you would hope. Chris Kennedy provided an excellent quote to exemplify this: “You can’t microwave change“.
Leading in a time of Conflict:
The teacher strike has not been fun. The situation in BC right now leaves me ‘stuck in the middle’ whereby I am ‘management’ and must comply with the directives of the Province, my employer, while working with my teachers, the employees, who have both imposed sanctions and had sanctions imposed upon them. Without going into more details, Principals and Vice Principals are quite literally on the front lines in a messy battle. With a conflict like this, I believe that as a leader we have two fairly important roles: 1. Speak up if we think that our voice can make a difference; and 2. Be compassionate.
We may not always like what we have to do, but we can do what we do with heart. In some ways, leadership always involves conflict. We have things we have to do and we have things we want to do, and there is often a mismatch. Sharing our opinion and our thoughts (not waffling, but certainly listening and weighing ideas) is important. So is treating everyone with dignity and having your actions speak louder than our words. This is not something you perfect, but rather something you must always work on.
Leading in a time of Technological Advancement:
I’m no longer trying every new tool out there. In fact I’m trying to be more effective with the tools I do use, such as Edublogs and Moodle with our students, or Evernote and Dropbox for my own use. But, I still think that engaging in technology is key to being a leader today. Some quick notes on the subject:
1. Be fearless and open, and keep one thing in mind… It’s not the tool, but rather the purpose behind the tool that is most important. If you ask only one question, ask “Is this good for students?”
2. You don’t have to be an expert! You do need to provide resources for technology. Be smart, but don’t be a miser. Being a leader doesn’t just mean leading the way, but also supporting (and getting out of the way of) the trailblazers who are on your team.
3. There is power in connectivity. I learn so much from my ‘digital peers’ that I would never have been exposed to if I wasn’t as connected as I am. I have also built some amazing friendships that are literally on par with friends I’ve known face-to-face for years. That said, face-to-face meetings are where the real connections really grow. One great place to start to connect is Twitter, although twitter has a bit of a hurdle to get past before it really has value. This ‘Twitter EDU‘ post can help.
4. You have an obligation to share. I’m not an expert on leadership, but here I am sharing my ideas. Some ideas will resonate with people, some ideas may challenge a reader’s point of view, some ideas will invite comments and these comments could help me in my journey. Just the act of writing all this down helps me think about my own leadership, and challenges me to live up to my own words. By sharing, I grow and I learn more!
Leading in a time of ___________: (Fill in the blank)
For example, I will spend more time with my students. It was a great compliment when one of my students described me as his teacher rather than his principal, but I still feel like this year I had less time with my students than last year. Also, next year we have dedicated collaboration and planning time for me and my teachers, beyond prep time. Why do we spend so much time scheduling the things we must do, and yet so little of our ‘want to do’ items get into our calendars? Dedicate time to the things you want to happen or they just won’t become a reality.