Wed 22 Nov 2006
Yet another offering from my Ed.S. program. This time it’s my weekly reflection due to my afternoon professor. Enjoy
This time around I found that I was really drawn to a couple of key elements in the reading, Maxwell’s Leadership 101, due to their applicability to my own professional life and development as a leader. Maxwell’s focus on the stages of leadership, as well as his insistence that great leaders take on the task of developing and mentoring their successors, seem particularly appropriate to me as I venture onto the first rungs of the leadership ladder.
Maxwell discusses the stages of leadership, and Dr. Berry also reviewed those stages in class, confidently asserting that most of us have made it to level 2, at which we at least know what we don’t know. I definitely feel that I am at level 2, acutely aware of my lack of expertise and experience. I find myself, for the second year in a row, in a new job, in a new place. This time, the setting is even more intimidating as I’ve made the move into the central office. Although my position is definitely an entry level one there, the expectations are high. As I was reading in the Maxell text, one of his suggestions really hit home. Maxwell cautioned that developing leaders take their time and allow themselves to fully develop their skills before attempting to advance into leadership positions they are not ready for. Too often, we let ourselves become too focused on advancement, without regard to our own readiness. One good thing I have experienced at the central office is an awareness of the many excellent leaders we do have at the district level. I know that I have much to learn from them, and that learning will definitely take time, more time than many might expect. But I think taking this time to learn and be mentored by others who are at higher levels of leadership can only benefit me in the long run.
The other aspect that Maxwell mentions is a critical one for schools, and one I feel is missing in most: leaders mentoring and developing future leaders. In class on Saturday, one of my classmates made mention of the 20% of teacher leaders who tend to be the ones always asked to lead initiatives, those workhorses and go-to people who eventually get burned out from being relied on, and, some say, “dumped on,” too often. But there’s a big difference between being exploited and being acknowledged and offered opportunities to develop leadership. The best leader I have ever worked with has mastered walking that fine line. Quite simply, she is someone people can’t refuse. I’m not talking about a person who uses fear to prevent refusal. Instead, this is a leader who manages to make every request sound like such a great idea, who manages to make you feel honored to have been included, and who even manages to make you hope she’ll ask you to do this extra thing, which will likely be something you’re not even getting paid to do. But in addition to this talent, this woman has something else that makes it all work: She knows how to build leaders. And she does it by letting them lead, by providing opportunity, and by being available and offering guidance when needed. Unfortunately, I don’t see similar leaders much in the schools, leaders who are willing to take the time to nurture and grow other leaders. Both administrators and teachers need such mentors if they are to feel empowered and if they are to develop into leaders who can lead their schools, staff, and students to greater success.
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