Monday, February 8, 2016

Leadership is Tough!



Very recently, I had the privilege of being accepted to the Clark County School District's resurrection of its Leadership Academy.  The purpose of the Academy is to better prepare administration candidates for the expectations and rigors of a school administration position.  The 13 week academy will explore different aspects of school leadership and give candidates the opportunity to learn their strengths and weaknesses in regards to a leadership position.  After one week of the academy, it has opened my eyes even further as to what I may eventually get myself into.

Now don't get me wrong: I have never thought, for one second, that any school administration position was easy.  I have had my moments, as a teacher, where I have expressed frustration in some of my supervisors, but who hasn't done that at some point?  What began to open my eyes even further to what a school leadership position entails and what makes a good leader in those positions was an amazing book (which is ironic, I hate paper, my classroom is paperless for the most part, and I was required to read an actual book, something that I couldn't just read online).  This book, Tough Truths: The Ten Leadership Lessons We Don't Talk About by Deirdre Maloney, presented 11 (Surprise! She included a bonus truth after the 10 as advertised) ideas about what makes a good leader, how it is uncomfortable to talk about them, especially as an individual, and why they are so important in making a great leader.



One of the things that stuck with me instantly when reading the book was right in the very first chapter. Paraphrasing here, it basically stated that "chess boards only have one king and one queen per side because it's tough to become one."  I thought about that in the sense of chess, where a queen is your piece that can move anywhere and losing it is nearly certain defeat while the king needs to be protected by all pieces and can only avoid harm's way by moving one space at a time.  To obtain another queen, you must move a pawn all the way across the board, which is not an easy task against any chess player worth their mettle (I am TERRIBLE at chess, for the record).  The book goes on to say that a great leader is a lot like the king and queen in chess in that it is very hard to become one, and it is hard to continue to be one and that one must address numerous aspects of their personality and professional growth in order to be an effective leader.  Our first written assignment for the academy was to look at our own personal characteristics and determine what we feel to be one of our leadership strengths and one of our leadership areas of growth (or weaknesses if you prefer) and how we can improve ourselves.  Before the instructor was done explaining the assignment, I already knew what I wanted to write about, but then when I sat down to put my thoughts down in type, I hesitated.  What was my greatest strength?  I know I have weaknesses, which one is most pressing?  I ultimately decided that being a risk taker was my strength while humor is my weakness.  

Great leaders take risks.  Think about the best leaders you have worked with in your career.  You may not have liked the decisions, but you almost have to respect one that took the risk to try something new, risking their own reputation for the chance to improve something.  I have taken all sorts of risks throughout my career in the name of improving my students' education.  At the same time, humor is something I need to work on extensively.  I love to talk and crack jokes (if you have read this before, you've probably picked up on this, right?).  However, there is a time and a place to crack a joke.  I struggle with this on a daily basis.  There are times that, in hindsight, I have made a remark that has made me question myself later on.  It could have been an inopportune time for a joke or something that may have been misinterpreted as insensitive, despite my best intentions. Knowing that I struggle with this, the book and the assignment have made me think hard about this weakness and what I can do to improve.  

Think about the leaders you have ever with, what made them great or terrible?  

Until next time... what would my thoughts be without a witty graphic (is this an appropriate time for a joke?)?