Monday, 2 September 2013

Developing Leaders One Person at a Time #SAVMP

I think during the next couple of days I will make up for the lack of writing as I have several posts brewing in my brain!


For week 5 of the School Admin Virtual Mentorship Program, we have been asked to write about leadership development.  I can't write about this topic without acknowledging the program we had at my school for the last three years.  Our school (I know, it isn't "my" school anymore but...) was part of the Leader in Me program that has a one tagline, "developing leaders one day at a time."  With this philosophy in mind, our goal was to develop leadership in our building, whether that meant students or staff.  

In order to develop leaders, I think it is so important to create a culture of safety in taking risks.  Both students and staff needed to feel comfortable in taking risks without fear of reprisal from someone "higher up." Whether that meant your teacher or your supervisor.  As well, in order to develop leaders, there needs to be opportunities to actually lead.  And then, as a leader, you have to be willing to take a back seat AND be happy with how things turn out.  

I remember taking a tiny step toward this outcome by giving students the responsibility and leadership with our bulletin boards.  They were so excited and I was happy to let them take over.  When they were done, I noticed some of the board was crooked and maybe not up to my (overly lofty) standard but I had to be okay because they were so proud of their work and leadership.

I was excited to hear about a staff member from my school who took the lead in the professional development of the school prior to school opening, leading staff in the next steps in the journey of the Leader in Me.  She may not have done that in the past but she was ready at this point.  Did I have a hand in that?  Maybe and I hope so... I did encourage her to take the lead in the previous year as she definitely had the capacity to be the leader in this area due to her passion and knowledge.

Our district offers potential leaders opportunities to learn about leadership in a job embedded scenario.  Participants will take part in formal learning modules, with the opportunity to take the learning back to the school while taking on leadership roles in the school.  Staff taking part sign up with their principal as mentor or some other person who acts in that mentorship capacity.  The hope is that by developing leadership capacity at the school level will result in many different leaders who will lead in the future in many capacities in our district.  I will have the opportunity to work through these modules with a staff member who seeks to have a leadership position in our district.  By taking part, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the program.

This year I will work with many new folks who have many skills.  I will hope they will step up and be leaders as there are many opportunities to be so.  They will take leadership with schools and meeting with administrators because I can not be everywhere at the same time.  They will lead in parent meetings as they are the experts.  They will lead in terms of professional development in their cohort groups as they should because they know what they need.  Educational assistants will lead in terms of their work in the classroom as they work and have to make daily decisions with the students they are responsible for.  

As I take part in this virtual mentorship program, I hope I will have the opportunity to encourage our little group to step outside their comfort zones to be the leaders they can be. As Krissy Venosdale writes, 

Growth. When it’s happening, you can feel it. You feel tired. In places in your brain you didn’t even know existed. Your thinking is stretched. Your answers take longer than normal. You’re finding reflection happening in moments in the car when you use to just hum along to music. Someone says something that makes you think even more. You wake up in the middle of the night with ideas, you jot things down, you have some big ideas that are constantly rolling around in your head like marbles, clanging, back and forth, smoothing out, until you’re ready to put them into action.

Leadership requires us to step out of our comfort zone, to be tired, to feel like you can't go on, but you do. If we are to develop leaders, we need to give space for this metamorphosis. We need to support those around us to be the leaders they can be. George Couros spoke about his first steps in leadership with his principal:

One of the best things that I had as a teacher was a principal that believed in me. I remember having a conversation with her about technology in school, and she asked me what I thought the budget should be for the year and what we should look at purchasing. I was perplexed by the question as this was traditionally the principal’s call and she looked at me and said, “I hired you for your knowledge in this area. Why would I make decisions for something that I do not know much about? I trust you.”

After that, I would have done anything for that principal (and still do as she is still my boss as the division level). When you give over power and responsibility it says one thing, but when you say where people excel and build upon it, that is also an important trait.

As we wrote about trust in our last post about building trust, it is important to note that trust and relationships are the foundation to building leadership capacity. We have to trust our people. After all, we did hire them for their knowledge! Let's show them we believe that...

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