Leadership is not a title, it’s an action. Whatever your role in education is, you are a leader in some capacity. Classroom teachers, para-professionals and other very important support staff, are leading students day-in and day-out. Members of the administration are leading staff, seemingly all of the time, so it is a no-brainer that how you lead matters!
The best leaders lead by example by inviting people to Walk This Way. They are servant leaders who lead based on strengths, not titles. They roll up their sleeves and become part of the team, and say me first. They are the first to set the example, the first to come to the aid of someone in need, the first to take the blame– and the first to challenge ideas that are not in the best interest of students and/or staff. They are servant leaders who are dedicated to serving. What makes a great leader? Well, the answer to that can differ according to who you ask, but there are some tried and true qualities that all great leaders exhibit.
Be a Cheerleader:
How do your students and staff know that you love your school? Be present; attend events and extracurricular activities in support of your students and staff. Don’t forget to show your school pride loud and proud, don some school swag and post on social media. In the building, visit classrooms often and give notes of cheer or words of affirmation to staff and students that are doing amazing things. Your enthusiasm will be contagious!
The school year is long–and it’s no secret that both students staff may lose their spark. As a leader, it’s your job to help them find it again. Plan events periodically throughout the year to inspire students and staff. Epic faculty meetings, motivational assemblies, activities, and profound personal messages help to re-energize people. Put aside some time for mindfulness activities with both students and staff. Brain breaks are great ways to help others rediscover their purpose and mission. Promote creativity over compliance.
Time is a precious commodity, and there are many demands on a leader, however, nothing says “you are important” like good communication. Develop a system to communicate with people regularly and expediently. Memos that outline important events and answer questions are a great way to keep people in the loop. Shared communication platforms allow others to help answer questions or inform the pertinent parties as to the progress helps to keep the leader from being overwhelmed with individual e-mails and discussions. Great leaders do not have to be the gatekeeper of all information, but they must ensure that the lines of communication are open.
Shared Decision Making:
“If you want to go faster, go yourself. If you want to go further, go together “ is an old African proverb that reminds leaders that you need collective thoughts and input to help make the best decision. Delegate and empower others to help bring new ideas to fruition, improve common practices and give insight into situations. Giving people a voice in decisions is the single best way to get buy-in. Create a committee for vetting ideas and considering changes with stakeholders.
Hold Yourself Accountable:
Whatever your role is, are you walking the walk? Make sure you are leading the way by following the school rules and being a good role model for others to follow. Be the one who picks up the trash, jumps in when an extra pair of hands are needed, exudes positivity and even admits when you make a mistake. People are always watching leaders, be the leader you admire!
Whatever your role, people admire leaders who are approachable and predictable. Put your cards on the table about the mission of the school or classroom; help others to see the big picture. Seek feedback. We can’t own what we don’t know. Cultivate a culture of trust an open communication. When others can see the connection, they often feel more empowered and invested.
To be an effective leader, in the classroom or school, it is essential to exhibit empathy for your people. Life is messy, people are often struggling with many challenges that affect their work and their lives. Seeking to understand them makes a strong connection and opens lines of communication that can help others with their problems–and in turn, be better in their role. Oh, and it makes you a good human being too!
Your commitment and passion for your role as a leader should be palpable to every person that you interact with. Be the leader that others will follow when you say, “Walk This Way!”
Paul J. Berardelli is a proud principal of Delsea Regional High School. Paul has challenged himself to be a true educational leader by inspiring his staff and students to excel. More recently, Paul has been featured in ASCD Journal for his article “Road Tested / Getting Up to Speed with Speed PD” and “Why Every Administrator Should Team Teach” and “Our Teachers Deserve More Praise”, and numerous blog posts in ASCD Inservice. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBerardelli
Michele Hill is a passionate educator who serves as a coordinator of admissions and communications at Burlington County Institute of Technology. Throughout her career as an educator, Michele has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students. Michele has been a guest blogger for ASCD Inservice, McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested. Michele is the host of DisrupteEdTv Teacher Sparks and Creative Consultant of DisruptEdTV Inspire Sparks. You can follow Michele on Twitter @HillMrispo or visit her blog: spiritededucator.blogspot.com
This article is part of a monthly series from Michele Hill and Paul Berardelli where they share their advice and expertise as a classroom teacher and school administrator who demonstrate the importance of working together to help create a school culture of excellence. You can read more from them by clicking on the ‘Dynamic Synergy’ tag or by clicking here.