As an aspiring leader, I have no reservations about moving from the classroom into school administration. After 13 years teaching math to eighth graders, I am excited about new embracing new challenges and experiences.
Ideally, I will able to secure an Assistant Principal position for next year. Unfortunately, I fear I will be jumping into a crowded applicant pool. Regardless, I will continue to learn, serve, and lead whether I remain in the classroom or move up. To land “the job”, I need to stand out.
To be an effective school leader, I need to continually learn and grow. I am always seeking out new information and perspectives to help me cultivate leadership skills that are valued both by my stakeholders and myself. The following characteristics are what I feel define an excellent administrator. This is the bar which I have set for myself.
Be yourself. As Shakespeare has advised us all, “To thine own self be true”. Each administrator is unique and different based on his/her experiences. Whether positive or negative, these experiences influence how we view ourselves, how we perceive others, and how we interact with everyone. It benefit no one to try to be exactly like another leader. Rather we should use the positive qualities we admire in other leaders as inspiration for our own path.
Be committed to excellence. Leaders should understand what “excellence” means in respect to the stakeholders of the organization and how it relates to a personal understanding of excellence. James Collins, author of Good to Great, advises us that “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” Leaders should inspire, motivate, and model excellence and be vigilant against settling for “good enough”.
Be positive. This is certainly a struggle for any person who cares deeply about what they do. Many days, it can feel as if the world is against you. This year in particular, as a new leader, I have faced many challenges and much criticism. Two quotes from author Jon Gordon, “Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” and “Positivity is like a boomerang. The more we put it out there, the more it comes back to us.” have been vital to my mindset this year. I keep these printed out in my room. I have invested a lot of time reading about positivity and growth mindset from authors like Jon Gordon and Carol Dweck. Simply changing how I think about everything has been greatly beneficial during this year. Positivity was literally my lifeline.
Be prepared, detail-oriented, and organized. This is as natural to me as breathing. I was pretty much born prepared. Attention to detail and organization are two of my greatest strengths. So much so, I am often the recipient of good-natured joking. I am also a “go-to” person on my campus. I love these characteristics and relish the opportunities that arise when I can share these skills and teach others to do the same. While these traits are expected of all leaders, they do not come easy to everyone. In those cases, it is painfully obvious and reduces the effectiveness of the leader. Luckily, with a little grit and resilience, leaders can excel in these areas.
Be accountable. Accountability goes hand in hand with integrity and vulnerability. Leaders who are accountable to themselves and their stakeholders are viewed as leaders of integrity. Being vulnerable to recognize mistakes in our leadership approach also builds the integrity of a leader. Most importantly, leaders must lead by example and that includes owning up to errors of judgement.
Be near-sighted and far-sighted. Leaders need to be fully aware of everything happening on their campus and have a clear vision and action plan for its future. Having the right people in the right positions goes a long way to seeing the complete picture of the campus. For myself, this means building trust with all stakeholders and keeping up on current / future education trends in education. Additionally, it requires careful balance between have a short, narrow focus and one that focuses on lofty, unreasonable goals.
Be fair, firm, flexible. Ah, the soft skills. By no means are these “weak” skills. Setting reasonable goals, expectations, and following through requires knowledge, intuition, and finesse. I feel another to think of this is “do what is right, reasonable, and responsible”. Emergencies aside, it is important to think carefully, respond timely, and act intentionally. Consistent execution of thoughtful actions and systems should also include the leader’s consideration of the uniqueness of each situation and its participants.
Be a leader. My most important task as a leader is to inspire, motivate, mentoring and coaching teachers in executing their jobs at the highest level. It is not enough to be nice and likable. I must genuinely care about every staff and faculty member, every student, and their families. Educational leadership is about developing effective teaching teams and helping each member care about one another and the team’s goals.
Believe in yourself. Above all, it is important to love what you do, care about and serve all stakeholders of your campus. These characteristics and beliefs are the heart of my personal mission…”Learn. Serve. Lead.”