Listen education leader, you have to remember to be gracious…even when you don’t always feel others deserve it. It costs you nothing to keep it classy and the effort pays off in spades. The teachers/principals/students that you look past today could be the people you need later on to get a change initiative off of the ground. I am in no way suggesting that you embark on a series of phony encounters geared only towards achieving a selfish goal. I mean that you should act like the leader you are no matter what anyone else does.
In his book On Leadership (1990) John Gardner writes, “Leadership requires major expenditures of effort and energy-more than most people care to make.” I cannot tell you how true this is. Gardner also writes about there being a difference between true leadership and delegated authority. I have worked under some people who had authority, but were not leaders by any stretch of the imagination. Have you? If you are like me, you know how a person who manages without leading can try employee patience and in some cases kill culture. If you are like several of the education leaders that I speak to, you may be wondering how to turn around toxic culture. I would suggest that you begin by showing your principals, students, teachers thanks. Do something nice to make their day easier. You may be surprised how your small acts of graciousness help change your workplace culture. Think about it. How valued do people/students feel where you are? Do teachers/students/principals get recognized for their efforts? (no I am not just talking about quarterly sports assemblies) A better question may be are the people actually doing the work receiving recognition for their work? Are they supported while they develop as professionals/students? Do you listen to all opinions and solicit honest feedback regularly? Is your district/classroom/school a safe place to make a mistake while learning and growing? When a person offers a differing view how do you receive them? (think hard about this one). Here is one of my FAVORITE TED TALKS on this topic.
You may ask, “What does this look like?” I would say that you can start small. Did you go to a college where the spirit squad or whomever left little notes of appreciation in everyone’s mailbox? I did. Start there. Leave a note of appreciate for every teacher/student/principal under your influence. If you have the budget, cater a lunch or snacks for PD. If you don’t have the budget, encourage everyone to bring something and make it a potluck. This is really simple stuff. Have coffee every morning and offer your teachers/principals/students? (depends on the school) the opportunity to come in early and chat with you and do a #coffeeedu style meet up. If a key person is repeatedly helpful to you perhaps get them a gift card or send them a note of thanks (we do too little of this ESPECIALLY when thanking children and principals for being awesome). If someone goes above and beyond the call of duty recognize them publicly and say thank you. Remember, relationships are a two way street. You will not get where you are going alone. You must be a team builder and by extension the embodiment of the vision you are working to bring about. Remember, to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. You have to show appreciation to the people you need most. – Dr. Kia