Navigating the Quagmire of Leadership in a School District
September 8th, 2017
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader, success is about growing others.”
— Jack Welch, Former chairman and CEO of General Electric, Best Selling Author
If you were to look at the most successful individuals in any given industry, you would find that they did not reach the top of their profession on their own. Behind the most successful companies in the world often lies a visionary, like Jack Welch or Steve Jobs, but if you dig a little deeper, you will find a highly effective team who helped to build those companies through dedication and teamwork.
Successful school districts are no different. The most accomplished districts earn their success through the challenging work of many dedicated individuals, which starts with the superintendent and his or her leadership team.
So how do you navigate this unsteady, unpredictable world of educational leadership? What steps can you take toward building a dedicated, passionate team who is ready to work with you to achieve success in your district? Consider utilizing some of the suggestions below which will help you build a leadership team who all strive toward the same goals.
Invest in Your Team (and They Will Invest in You!)
Successful superintendents are those willing to invest the time and patience it takes to build a leadership team who feels connected with their superintendent and his or her goals. It can be tempting to hire people who are hard-working and talented and leave them to it, but this rarely results in achieving the desired goals for the district.
It is important that your cabinet feel like a community rather than a network of independent workers, and as superintendent, you are responsible for facilitating this.
How? Here are some tips:
- Be transparent. Make it clear that everyone is on the same team working toward the same goals. Get everyone involved in how your are going to accomplish those goals.
- Encourage questions. Make sure every member of your team feels comfortable speaking up if they are struggling.
- Facilitate effective communication. Remember that phrase from grade school, no idea is a bad idea? This is an important mantra for adults in organizations. Sometimes the best ideas are born out of the not so great ones.
- Invest time. One-on-one time is important for a leader to give to his/her team. Supervision including scheduled meetings and reviews are crucial to helping your team understand where they have been, where they are now and how they are going to get to the next step. Giving honest constructive feedback as well as celebrating the wins helps build trust.
- Invest dollars. Continuing education is crucial to the development of your team. Make sure you encourage team members to seek out additional resources and education which will help him/her succeed in his/her position and career.
- Don’t put out fires; prevent them. When people know what to expect, they’ll have a sense of comfort. Work on problems that may occur and solutions should they occur.
Learn to be Approachable
Think about your team for a moment. How do you think they regard you? Are you easy to talk to or do they avoid you?
Approachable leaders makes people feel comfortable and at ease. When people feel that they can easily discuss ideas and issues with their leader, it’s easier for the team to work together, make connections, and communicate.
How? Here are some ideas:
- Be curious. Ask questions. Don’t jump in too quickly to solve a problem.
- Be relatable. Talking about your family, hobbies and interests allows others to connect to you on a more personal level. Ask about your team members lives outside of the office. Allowing your staff to view you as a person with a job to do and a life outside of work, just like them, will go a long way in building that important sense of community.
- Build trust. Building trust within your team takes time. Practice being ethical, fair, non judgmental and follow through on what you say you are going to do.
- Encourage your team not to agree with you all the time. Growth doesn’t come from people nodding in agreement all the time. Staying open and listening will further strengthen your district.
A Note from SuperEval
One of our goals at SuperEval is to be a place where superintendents can go to share best practices, tips, and ideas with fellow superintendents. Do you have any advice on building a strong leadership team? If so, please feel free to share by leaving a comment.
Sources used to write this article: