10 things no one told you about school leadership
As an “unorthodox” leadership coach I pride myself on telling you how it is.
The point of today’s post is to share ten uncommon ideas that will help you be an effective school leader.
YOU HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH TIME.
The norm is to complain about time.
“There’s never enough time” your colleagues will say.
There is plenty of time.
All that needs to change is your relationship and perspective regarding time.
When you take responsibility for the time you have in a day and make a commitment to stop complaining about time, something magical happens …
You find that there is more than enough time to go around. What needs to change is your mindset and how you use it.
YOUR STAFF IS GOOD ENOUGH AND CAN GET THE JOB DONE.
The norm is to complain about staff — especially, but not limited to — the troublesome people.
“One rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel” your colleagues will say.
So they put together an improvement plan which is really a “move them out of my building plan.”
But what if you couldn’t do that?
I’m not asserting that you give 3rd, 4th, or 5th chances to underperformers.
I am saying, what if your initial response couldn’t be to move people out of your school?
Many school leaders want to build a remarkable school.
If you could only build a remarkable school keeping the staff you have, what changes?
It’s been done before.
YOUR DISTRICT’S AMBIVALENT ATTITUDE TOWARD YOUR DEVELOPMENT DOESN’T MATTER.
The research is there, but I won’t bore you with the stats right now.
Instead I’ll ask you to investigate your own experience.
Are your needs being met by your school district? Are they growing you? How are you being stretched and challenged?
Most importantly, how long have you been waiting for the coaching you long for?
The norm is that quality professional development is lacking for school leaders. But what is extraordinary is that some leaders actually do something about it.
They take their professional growth seriously and decide to invest in themselves because they are worth it.
My motto is “Everyone wins when YOU get better.”
That CAN’T happen unless you grow. And if you are waiting for others to do the growing for you …
You’ll be waiting a long time.
THE JOB WILL KILL YOU IF YOU DON’T TAKE SELF-CARE SERIOUSLY.
Just like complaining about time, it’s a fallacy to believe there isn’t enough time to take care of yourself.
Too many school leaders do not PRIORITIZE their health.
Yes, the job is demanding, so it’s easy to work all the time.
Some people are addicted to work.
Others like to work hard so they can play the martyr. “Woe is me … I work so hard and my life is so difficult.”
Trish Antulov died at her principal’s desk.
Her husband told reporters, “She just didn’t have time to look after herself properly … She was under a lot of stress and terrible pressure just to be successful in her job.”
Dying on the job is not success. Your school isn’t worth dying for.
COOPERATION > COMPETITION.
Too many schools compete.
They vie for the #1 spot …
To get the blue ribbon …
And recognition …
They believe there can only be one winner.
If the game you are playing is a competition, that is true.
You can play what Simon Sinek calls an “Infinite Game.”
Infinite minded leaders believe, “You don’t have to lose for me to win.”
Imagine a world where districts shared freely:
- Best practices
- And more …
Instead of competing for the #1 spot in the city, state, and nation …
Ultimately more students would win.
LEARNING DOESN’T MAKE YOU A BETTER LEADER.
It pains me to say this as someone who LOVES learning.
Learning can be a waste of time.
If you don’t take action, NOTHING changes.
For some leaders, it’s easier to read a book about hard conversations than having the actual hard conversations.
In this way, learning is a way of hiding.
John Doerr said, “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything,”
What’s the difference between the founder of Netflix and you?
The founder did the work to create the company. You did not.
Having the idea for Netflix and creating Netflix are two very different things.
PUBLIC, PRIVATE, CHARTER … IT DOESN’T MATTER … WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM.
Just like competition, it is too popular (and lazy) to “other” the various forms of education.
Kevin Kelly said, “Trust me. There is no ‘them.’”
Over a decade ago I saw charters as a problem. I saw them as “stealing” students from public schools.
I no longer see things that way …
Another concept in The Infinite Game is having a “Just Cause” so BIG that you can’t do it on your own.
You’ll need help.
My Just Cause is “to connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.”
So anyone in the business of helping school leaders grow are not my competitors. They are actually on MY TEAM and helping me accomplish MY GOAL.
All schools are working toward the same goal: to provide a quality education and open doors for the next generation.
WARNING! IT’S EASY TO BE A BETTER PARENT TO YOUR STUDENTS THAN TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL.
I’ll never forget when a principal told me, “I’m a better parent to my students than to my own children.”
There’s a theme in this post.
Align your values with your actions.
I don’t know any leaders who want to be a workaholic at the cost of their family.
And yet …
This struggle is real for many school leaders.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
You can say NO.
You can set boundaries.
You can prioritize your family.
YOU’LL GET MORE DONE IF YOU DON’T WORK SO HARD. (THE SECRET OF 85%).
The other day I was listening to Tim Ferriss interviewing Hugh Jackman on his podcast.
Jackman told a story of the athlete Carl Lewis — winner of 9 Olympic gold medals — a successful man for sure.
The interesting thing about Carl is that he was notorious for starting off races slow.
Not good for a sprinter!
But his coach once told him something that helped him rack up win-after-win, and gold-after-gold medal.
“Just give me 85% effort,” his coach said.
Contrast that with what you hear in education.
“I want 100% … NO … 110% effort!”
A maximum effort makes you tense.
85% effort on the other hand, lets you approach the challenge with a relaxed focus.
While other runners were getting more and more tense throughout the race, Carl was relaxed …
And he blew right past them through the finish line.
THE MAJORITY OF SCHOOL LEADERS ARE AVERAGE OR WORSE. IF YOU ARE READING THIS YOU CAN BE GREAT.
One reason I became a school leader is because I saw how BAD other school leaders were and I thought, “I could do that better.”
There was a time when I served 20+ schools from the Central Office of Chicago Public Schools. During that time I worked with and saw many examples of school leadership.
The truth is, the majority of principals were average or worse …
That makes sense to me too.
It’s an easier path.
- Average (or worse) principals aren’t organized.
- Average (or worse) principals don’t have hard conversations or communicate well.
- Average (or worse) principals ignore culture.
- Average (or worse) principals care more about the “look” versus what it takes …
- Average (or worse) principals don’t prioritize their professional growth.
To become a great principal it begins with a choice, but it doesn’t end there.
The fact that you read this article tells me that you are on the path …
Now be sure to act!
READY TO LEVEL UP?
I’ve created a 5-day challenge, “The Back to School Boot Camp,” with the ONE THING guaranteed to help you start the year off with success.
The ONE THING is a 90-day plan, and over 5-days I will send you an inspiring video along with an actionable challenge to help you create your 90-day plan for next year.