A message to leaders

One of my favourite reads is Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak blog.  He’s passionate and dedicated to the topic of leadership and turns out blog posts on a daily basis.  I can’t recommend it highly enough for current leaders or those who would aspire to be leaders or … well, read on.  There are always things to think about.

The focus is on leadership in general and so is applicable in so many areas.  But, every now and again, a read has me saying – “He’s writing specifically about education”.  What puts a particular post over the top happens when I say to myself “He’s talking about my life.”

Recently, he shared a post “Solution Saturday: No Gratitude From Leaders” that I’ll bet resonates with most in education.

Over the years, I’ve worked in environments where there are leaders and those who would be leaders.  If you’re in education, you know the drill.  Department Heads, Subject Councils, Division Leads, Vice-Principals, Principals, Consultants, Coordinators, Superintendents, Directors, Trustees, Parents, Ministry of Education representatives, Professional Learning Leaders, for-hire Speakers, and, in today’s digital world where you can brand yourself to be just about anything you want, Thought Leaders.

If you’re “in the trenches’, you know what I’m talking about.  If you’re looking down into the trenches, you’re on the list!

As I write this post, I have specific individuals that I can picture in all of these positions.  Some of these people were absolute leaders and I’d follow their lead anywhere.  Even though one of the best is retired, we still meet periodically for coffee and I’m still the beneficiary of his advice.  Some of the others, fit into this phrase which can be so perfect, and it would be nice to know who said it first.  “The secret of success is sincerity. Fake that and you’re in.

I remember both types so vividly.

There were some that were so memorable.  One comes to mind immediately.

Things that I specifically remember was his always being there when I needed him, no praise or gratitude was shown unless it was necessary, and somehow he always had knowledge about something I’d done that I didn’t know or expect that he would ever have even known.  We had both taken the Franklin-Covey leadership course and had taken away so much.  I finally put him on the spot one day and asked him outright “How do you know this?”  His response was interesting.  He took notes about everything, including classroom and school visits, and categorized them by topic and by person.  Whenever he knew that he was going to meet with someone, he would review the notes before the meeting.  He came across knowing me inside and out.  I asked him why and his response was something that stuck with me “Because it’s my job – if I don’t work with my staff and make them better, I’m not doing it properly.”  That certainly wasn’t on his published job descriptor but it was something that he honestly and truthfully believed and lived.  What about the bad things?  They never seemed to hit his radar or our discussions unless I did them more than once!  He just let me learn.  I don’t recall him ever being in the spotlight – he always assigned that task to someone else.  (Introvert as I am, I hated it when it was my turn!)

The other type I remember so vividly as well.  I could write a novel or two about them but I’m not sure that it serves a purpose other than griping.  Let’s just say that they can be everything that the description above wasn’t.

As I sit back and read this, I can’t help but think that education is so unique.  Everyone is in a leadership position in one way or another.  There are classroom leaders, school leaders, district leaders and regional/provincial leaders.  It’s hard to divest teaching leadership from system leadership.  And maybe that’s a good thing.

It’s a challenge then to those who would provide professional learning opportunities and another kick at the “sit ‘n git” format.  How can you expect a leader to thrive in that environment?

No matter what your place in education is, take a read of the post again and consider this.

You are a leader.

Consider the attributes and topics that he addresses.  What can you start doing today to become an even more effective educational leader?  What type of gratitude from leaders do you need to motivate yourself?  What type of gratitude do you need to use to inspire those you motivate?  Are you faking it or are you living it?

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