As regular readers of the blog may know, I work with and support school and district leaders in various parts of the country. I enjoy seeing leaders who are moving from novice stages of their careers and growing into strong, clear, and positive leaders for their organizations. But what are some of the key elements to making that transition. It is not as simple as one might think, and it’s not just something that happens because the pages of the calendar have fallen off for a couple of years. No, experience alone is not enough for a leader to really grow into their role. Experience is necessary, but experience without learning, experimenting, failing, and succeeding is simply marking time.
Among the most powerful elements of leadership growth is the development of a leadership team. Far too often I see leaders who are struggling mostly because they don’t build their team up, galvanize them together, LEAD them. Rather, inexperience or ineffective leaders will work individually with members of the team but won’t have the entire group working together.
- Team division: when the leader doesn’t allow or encourage cross collaboration through the leadership team, individuals become isolated and ‘out of the loop’ regarding the work being done. Great leaders understand their is always a greater impact than they might realize on the other members. Simple example, as the leader you might spend time with your building principals discussing their ideas for movement of staff from one room to another. But if the maintenance, custodial, and technology leaders aren’t involved in the conversation they won’t know or understand the reason why each move is being made. You might think this isn’t their business or not the best use of their time, but they will need to be able to answer questions related to the move with their crew as well. They might also be able to offer insight to the building leaders regarding potential moves.
- Lack of trust: when you are left out of conversations or excluded from meetings where others are making decisions, you can begin to question the leader. As a district leader I wanted even my APs in the room when we discussed things that would ultimately lead to a decision. Perhaps one of the times I am not as proud of would be making a fairly large scale decision without the building level leaders in the room. I know my team felt like I kept them in the dark. I thought I had good reason but having full transparency with them would have led to much more effective communication and support for the decision. Right or wrong on the choice the district-level team made, including my building leaders should have been the move. I know that it cost me some trust and took time to rebuild that part of our relationships.
- Confusion: many of the leadership teams I work with now have a commonality. It typically is connected to the ‘grand vision’ of the district leadership team. We all have initiatives we want to bring together because, when it all flows the right way, those elements will lead to the vision becoming reality. But what happens when others can’t or don’t see the whole picture. They can get lost in the elements and, for want of a better phrase, get lost in the forest because of the trees. It is really important that leaders continually communicate expectations, share their vision and road map to get there, and reinforce when the right work is being done.
Ultimately, as the leader your work is about people. The people who make up your leadership team should be the most important people in your world (work world). Invest time in each of them but also in them as a whole. When a leadership team is functioning highly, it is palpable. You can see how each of them can identify their role in the vision, articulates it clearly with others, and takes ownership. Being a great leader requires being a great builder of teams. You got this!!
Have a #RoadToAwesome week
Tune in this week to “Leaning into Leadership” where my guest is Drew Perkins. Drew is the professional development director for Teach Thought.
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