We all know that it is important to have great leadership in business. This is no different in education. Over the last 5-6 years I have worked in education I have seen several leaders throughout my district and other districts in our region. I have found that one thing is same in any district.
The better the leader, the more successful the district. The strongest schools in our region have some of the most competent leaders in the correct positions at their districts. The weakest districts seem to have less strong leaders and more people in the wrong jobs.
Districts need to start looking closer at the people they place in leadership positions. This doesn’t just include the Superintendent and Principal position, however.
Let’s back up though. Great leadership in mid-level to low-level positions is great, but how effective can that leader be if the highest level of leadership is just good? What if those leaders aren’t even good?
It’s true, if you don’t have the authority to make great decisions it’s going to be that much harder to promote change or to implement great programs. This shouldn’t be a deterrent to you, however. Sometimes decision makers become great because of mid to lower level leaders who won’t stand by and watch as poor decisions are made. If you know something needs to be done to improve your district you need to work to get it done. Even if it means pressuring your high level leaders to make the right decisions. It’s a risk that can pay off greatly for the district and yourself if you succeed. It is also a good way of getting yourself in trouble if you’re wrong. Confidence in your abilities and knowledge will go a long way, but make sure it’s confidence and not arrogance. Never let a bad leader stand in your way of creating success at your district.
A great book everyone should read is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins (Click Here for more info).
In his book Jim explains that businesses need to make sure they have the right people on the bus, and once they are on, they are sitting in the right seat. This book was recommended to me by a great leader at my district and it has helped me to work toward this goal. Even though the book is geared toward businesses the majority of the concepts easily translate into education. I should say, the business of education, which is where most of the mistakes occur in education.
This is the key reason why many districts struggle to succeed. They may have the right people, but many times these people aren’t qualified or don’t have the ambition to be great leaders. Often districts will even settle for just good leaders. Why settle for a good leader when you can have a great one? All too often districts end up settling for a current staff member to move into a leadership role simply because of licensure and seniority. This is a great mistake. Too often these people don’t have true leadership skills. It doesn’t mean they cannot become great, but they have a much longer road to travel to get there than someone who already has the experience. The problem becomes greater when a district fills all the high-end positions with these people. Now who is there to mentor these new leaders? There is nobody. They must fend for themselves, and all too often they will fail, not because they couldn’t do it, but because they just weren’t in the right seat sitting next to the right person on the bus.
Anybody can become a great leader if willing to put in the work. Acknowledge your weaknesses and conquer them. Be ready to allow someone else to take the credit for your ideas if you have to. A great leader also builds up others to become great as well. Don’t forget, there is probably someone out there building you up as we speak. Return that favor to someone else. Great leaders can’t be selfish.
There are many great leaders out there, some in the right seat and some who are not. Beware of the leader who claims greatness, as they don’t likely know their own worth. I certainly am not a great leader. I strive to be one and will continue fighting for my district to become great. Until that happens I will simply continue challenging mediocrity and working for excellence in everything I do at my district and I encourage all of you leaders to do the same.