1. Be ready to listen. The greatest of ideas can come from the most unexpected places. We often are so eager to lead that we take for granted the art of an open ear. Encourage your colleagues to "bend it". Open the door to communication and sit back and hear what is needed be said. Not everything that is shared will be something that is implemented or applied, but you'll be better off to have heard than not heard at all.
2. Strengthen relationships. Every educator that I have met understands the value of knowing who the work with. The great leaders, those that stand apart from their peers, know that the deeper the relationships, the greater the outcomes of success of the organization. While you are listening, make sure to take note of what each member of your team brings to the table. The more you know who they are, the more likely you are to get them to follow your lead. Relationships matter most.
3. Step aside. As an administrator we have the distinct responsibility to lead our buildings into academic success. Student achievement is our goal. Being the instructional leader is our charge and for the safety and well being of our community, we are the operators of our institutions. Knowing when to lead, and when to step aside allow others to lead, is a craft that only some posses. Sharing the role of who is at the helm builds strength within your walls of your school. Teachers aspire to lead, leaders aspire to create opportunities for them. Give them the support to take the reigns. Build capacity.
4. Model it. From your demeanor, to your disposition, to how you lead, to how you learn and especially how you interact with your staff, students and parents, model at all times. If we expect it of others, expect it of yourself. Always in a constant state of change and an ever growing use of technology in our profession, educators (like any other career) must stay with the times. Model the leading, learning and work that you do. What we do is observed by all. Make it count.
5. Get (and stay) connected. Whether with the people you serve each day or the ones you meet through conferences, conversations or social networking, one of our greatest professional tools is getting connected with others in our work and learning through those interactions. Using platforms such as Twitter, Voxer, Instagram or the constantly evolving world of social media, it is those connections that will grow you as a leader and a learner. If you are not connected, you are not keeping up.
Challenge yourself to work on these five essentials as you begin to think about students, staff and your community entering your halls in the coming weeks. Create for yourself a blueprint for what it is you hope to accomplish this year in each of these areas. Where you find a strength, tweak it. Engage with others to help you discover which is an area that could use more attention, your weakness. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and motivate you. Don't sell yourself short. We each have the ability, and the positions, to lead like never before.