Gems of Thought
Leadership Thoughts | Issue #122
"You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it."
Shortly after I started my first job as a superintendent in 1989, I contacted a well-respected, experienced superintendent and asked him for advice. Unfortunately, his response was not what I wanted to hear: he advised me to think twice about entering the superintendency at such an "awful time"; he said it was no longer enjoyable, and people questioned everything. Thankfully, other mentors found me, or I found them; these mentors had a more hopeful outlook on school leadership.
When I read an article titled, 10 Gems of Advice by Warren Buffet, it made me think – do I have any gems from experience worth sharing on a blog? If someone new to a leadership position would ask me for my advice, what would I tell them? Everyone likes to be asked for their advice, and I am no exception, but generally, my recommendation comes with questions. I take no credit for the following ten gems of wisdom. They are things we already know, but we don't always consider.
1. Leadership is not about being in control. The success of the organization and your own professional success directly correlate to your ability to empower others.
2. Effective communication is essential for success. Listening and talking are both integral parts of being a leader, but the ability to be an excellent listener distinguishes between merely average leadership and leadership that excels.
3. Lead by example. People will follow a leader who demonstrates integrity, humility, and a strong work ethic.
4. Embrace differences in thought. Recognizing a variety of perspectives will lead to better decisions and innovation. Seek feedback, not praise. Respect every individual and know that everyone's contribution matters.
5. Continue to learn and teach. Have a learner's mindset. Successful leaders are curious and strive to improve themselves and their leadership skills. They understand that they should serve as mentors, teachers, and colleagues to others.
6. Resilience is a critical trait for leaders. Embrace challenges, adapt, lead change, live, and lead with a growth mindset.
7. Leadership requires empathy and emotional intelligence. Get your own emotions under control by understanding your emotional triggers. Seek to understand the feelings, needs, and motivations of others. Always consider the good intentions of others.
8. Encourage an atmosphere of trust and security. Let individuals feel confident that they can take risks, express their ideas, and learn from mistakes.
9. Thinking strategically is essential. Embrace the organizational mission, develop a clear, inspiring vision, and create a pathway to advance the vision. Use the skills of purposeful reflection and intentional forethought to guide progress. Be a system thinker by viewing situations from the whole and its components.
10. Leadership is about serving others. Being a leader means putting the needs of those you serve first. This concept is commonly referred to as the "servant leadership" approach. Your primary responsibility is to create a vision, plan how to achieve it, check on progress, and provide any needed assistance for the organization to move forward. Show appreciation for your team members' efforts and successes.
I encourage you to consider each of the ten gems of thought listed above and ask yourself, what are my strengths, and where do I need to do some work? If someone would ask you for a list of ten gems you've learned from experience – what would you tell them?
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