We rise by lifting others. As a leader, one of my favorite parts of the role has always been growing other leaders and seeing them find success. Being in a position of leadership carries with it an expectation of bringing others along and helping them find their own path as a leader. I recall many times seeing a younger/early career teacher who may not be the head of the department or the head coach but who clearly had leadership skills and I could see them growing beyond the role they held at that time. I had easy access to the leaders already on my team, such as assistant principals, activity directors, and department leaders but what about those not in a role outside the classroom. How do you help to lift others into leadership opportunities that aren’t directly on your leadership team? Here are a few ideas, three to be specific. Please note this is not an all-inclusive list, just a starting point for a conversation I hope you’ll engage in with me and other readers.
- Delegate meaningful work to them: as example, I had an amazing teacher working in my school who was very passionate about school culture. We wanted to recognize groups who were less often given recognition but nonetheless made a large impact on our school’s culture and climate. This teacher came to me with several ideas, including one called “Curbside Coffee & Donuts”. The idea was to have students and school leaders greeting parents and bus drivers and saying ‘thank you’ for all they do. To do this, we would need coffee & tea, donuts and pastries. I thought the idea was awesome and delegated full authority to him to pursue this event. It was a spectacular success, even the jazz band was involved. The key here was not only that I delegated this work to him, but that I gave him full autonomy. I didn’t tell him it must be done a certain way. Rather, I asked that he share with me so I could ask questions about what he might have overlooked. To be honest, he hit the details much better than I would have and, as a result, the event was met with great appreciation.
- Bring them into the decision making process: if you’ve ever said, as a leader, something like ‘if they only knew what went into the work WE do’, then maybe you might consider actually allowing them to be a part of the decision making process. Being a school or district leader requires a number of decisions being made every day. Some are small, day-to-day type decisions while others are on a much bigger scale. Those are the decisions you want others to experience when they have leadership aspirations. Case in point, my staff had asked to revisit our bell schedule. It honestly was a mess and needed to be revised for the much larger number of students in the building since the last time the bell schedule was created. I had a committee work on this endeavour but they knew the decision was not theirs to make, they only were to make recommendations. One of my up and coming leaders was very interested in the process and I had her take on the work of building draft schedules to share with the committee. Once the committee process was complete (several weeks and meetings later), I brought her into the decision making process with the leadership team at both the building and district level. She was surprised to learn the intricacies of the process and to see how many other systems in the district might have been affected. More so, when she applied for an assistant principal position, she was able to speak so much better than many others around systems and how decision making would be done from her office, if she got the position. Oh, and she got the position.
- Similar to #2, give them a seat at the table. Each of us, as leaders, have been invited to the table at some point in time. I can reflect on numerous times when I was extended the opportunity to be with the leadership team or part of making decisions. Nothing is more empowering that being brought forward as a leader, being valued for your input, skills, and knowledge, and being able to make an impact. For many, this invitation to the table might be the thing that reinforces or sparks in them the desire to pursue a career in leadership. Find ways to get those leaders to the table. One of my favorite examples was early in our MTSS process. I had a need for rebooting the gifted and talented program and went to one of my strong teachers in whom I saw leadership skill. She not only rebuilt the process, she seized on this chance to make her mark. Within a few months she had proven so invaluable that I moved her into a role I created just for her. She became our instructional coach and essentially our curriculum director. A simple invitation to the table can go a very long way.
We rise by lifting others. So, leaders, what steps are you taking to lift others around you? Share them – together we all learn more.
Have a #RoadToAwesome week,