One of the most frustrating aspects of being a leader in a school is seeing so many improvements that can be made. When I first embarked on my education leadership journey, I wanted to change the world and I wanted to change everything that I felt could and should be improved. Soon enough, I began to encounter a massive problem. My ‘to do’ list was becoming too long and I was struggling to prioritize which improvements needed to be tackled first. I found myself working longer and longer hours unwilling to accept the status quo and push on and make change. Furthermore, I became miserable and quite literally, work ate my life.
These days I feel comfortable with where I am; a good balance between family, career and personal enjoyment. So, what’s changed?
One of the key elements of leadership that I have learned is to let go of things whilst still having the same goal, which is to improve the school where I work in that educational opportunities and outcomes are significant and teachers make a difference.
Letting go has been a hard skill to master but one I am keen to share and impress upon my colleagues who aspire to be leaders or currently hold on to positions of responsibility. The following may help in re-calibrating where you are at as a school leader and give you greater purpose in your school improvement endeavours:
- Be thankful for any improvement – not everyone can do the job you ask of them. The people we work with are not clones of us, thankfully! The way we want students taught may not happen as we would like. Some of our colleagues will do things better, some less well and levels of motivation vary. It is, however, overall improvement that counts. If there is a 60% improvement in successful teaching and learning practices that is better than none at all.
- Rome was not built in a day – there will always be work to do tomorrow. Working long hours does not always make you more productive and it is a sure fire way to burn out. Be satisfied with a day’s hard work and enjoy the down time; the project will still be there in the morning.
- Pick your battles – prioritize your efforts. You cannot address everything all at once. So, step back, prioritize, set realistic goals and begin to tackle the list accordingly.
- Avoid reaction distraction – stick to the task at hand. Problems will arise and other improvements will be stumbled upon. You will be tempted to fix them there and then rather than add them to the list for later. Every time this happens and you get distracted from your task, the longer it takes to get done. There is a reason why we prioritize, so stick with the priorities.
- Invest in your team – good leaders need an able supporting crew. Spend time training, coaching and mentoring your team, as you and your school will reap the rewards. They will begin to take the initiative and responsibility that you need whilst easing your load. Let them lead and be thankful for the improvement that they will bring (see point 1).
Most importantly remember that hero leadership is not sustainable for you, your school or your family and friends. So, lead through letting go, picking the most important work first and get your team on board.