“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” – Simon Sinek
When I was a younger administrator, I felt pressured to have all the answers. I think we have all been in place, at a time, when we felt like we needed to prove ourselves. As a school superintendent there are many who think I know everything that happens in our organization. There are times that people look to me to solve problems or have ideas.
In truth, I see my role as often the person that creates the environment for others to solve problems and answer questions. Culture is the key. Cultivating a culture that empowers problems to be solved by the experts is where the magic happens. We believe that our culture drives the behavior in the Hilliard City School District. Our culture empowers teachers and building leaders share and create great ideas.
No one is the expert in everything, but we have experts in our ranks. As a leader, create the culture where the experts are inspired to create great ideas, where the dreamers are encouraged to dream big dreams. Live your purpose through serving others . . . through inspire others to life the organization to higher levels of performance.
“We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.” – Barack Obama
Excellence isn’t a destination. Excellence is a journey. Internalizing the idea of excellence is about embracing a growth mindset. It’s about being excellent every day. It’s about embracing the productive discomfort required to redefine our edge.
For me, internalized excellence is about simply being the best version of me. It isn’t about being better than others . . . it’s about being better than I was yesterday. When I compare me to me . . . if it am constantly building skill and relationship then I am becoming a better version of me.
Take time today to think about areas that you want to improve. How can you be a better version of you? Listen to those around you. Ask those you trust. Today, starting right now, work to be better than you were yesterday.
“A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him rise to the top.” ― Simon Sinek
You know who they are . . . the people with the skill and motivation to be successful, but it is about them. The self-promoter . . . the “I Guy” inside the organization. We value the skills but shake our heads at the behavior. These are the people who do great things – and then take credit for them.
We also know the leaders who inspire great things in the organization yet raise others up in celebration. These leaders empower excellence and value the power of the team. Leaders that set high standards, support the work of others, and build a culture of success.
What type of leader do you want to be? How do you want people to look at you? To truly be a star, make those around you better. Too truly have success, add to the power of the team. The best way to get to the top of the mountain is to enjoy the journey with a strong team.
“In solitude we don’t reject the world but have the space to think our thoughts.” ― Sherry Turkle
We live in a world of constant connections. Personally, I am constantly connected. From my iPhone to my watch, from my iPad to Alexa, I always seem to be sharing or gathering information. In reality, the world of information is at my fingertips. The problem is, my mind is also always racing. I often find myself in a state of information-overload.
Finding space to be with my thoughts is important to me. Finding time to process all of the information, to configure my thoughts in my own brain before I engage other people, is of utmost importance. I need time . . . I need mini-breaks during the day . . . to simply have space for my thoughts.
When do you have time to think? When do you make time to reflect and process. One of the greatest gifts of a good leader is being able to process the situation. Our brains process . . . we evaluate . . . each input we encounter. What we hear, see, read, smell . . . all of those sensory stimulated requires processing. When we are in “overload” we miss things. It is important that we slow down and make space to process . . . to intentionally and purposefully get our minds right before we act.
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ― Simon Sinek
As public educators, we are in the business of service. First and foremost, we serve the students who walk through our doors each and every day. The best among us are able to keep our focus on children most of the time.
Of course, the work we do in service to children is how we make a living . . . our service is also our job. I feel incredibly blessed that my personal mission is in alignment with the work I get to every day.
We see the character of those in public education whose first priority is on the students. We also see the character of those whose primary focus is on the adults – or on themselves.
Be a servant educator . . . let others see your character by how your treat the children in your care, not on how you focus on the adults.
“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.” Simon Sinek
In the Hilliard City School District we hire for values and heart. We hire people who share our value system and have a heart for teaching our students. Many of the skills required in teaching today are evolving . . . our teachers must embrace a growth mindset. Our teachers must be lifelong learners. Our teachers must have a passion to be elite, because the craft of teaching, first and foremost, requires a heart for children.
Our culture is paramount in our district. We believe, we know, that without a strong culture we will never fully live our mission. We live our values of Stand Up and Own it and Power of the Team. We hire people who will be great teammates, great additions to our family, and truly live our passion to be better each day.
A high GPA or exceptional test scorers don’t guarantee success. A poor attitude guarantees failure – EVERY TIME! We surround ourselves with people who share our attitude and together we cultivate the skills.
“The first problem of communication is getting people’s attention.” – Chip Heath
We are inundated by emails, texts, and alerts. Most of what comes in my mailbox at home – yes, the mail from the U.S. Postal Service – doesn’t even make it past the trash can in the garage. The post cards, flyers, and advertisements don’t even get a peak. The newspaper and advertisements don’t even get out of the plastic bags . . . they go right in the trash. Honestly, none of it gets my attention. The plethora of emails selling things – DELETE. The push notifications from The Dispatch, ESPN, and Channel 10 . . . swipe away. Honestly, what grabs your attention?
For me it is a prior connection. For me, getting my attention means you have earned it. For me, I trust that it’s worth my time to read, watch, or listen to what you are sharing with me. Nevertheless, don’t abuse the fact that I’m giving you my attention. If you send too much or get greedy . . . you will go to the delete pile quickly.
As leaders, keep in mind what you do with communication. Understand the flood of information that people face. The biggest challenge is getting people to pay attention – you need to earn it!
“Optimists are usually wrong. But all the great change in history, positive change, was done by optimists.” – Thomas Friedman
I am an optimist. I believe I have always been an optimist. The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men was given to me as a Christmas gift years ago by my wife . . . I believe we can make the impossible, possible
As an optimist I am wrong a lot more than I am right. I am constantly hypothesizing and dreaming about ways to improve what we do in public education. There are hundreds of ideas that I never verbalize or write about. For every idea that is discussed or written about there are dozens that my friends, family, and colleague poke holes in and turn simply into unreasonable ideas.
But, and yes there is a but, those optimistic ideas that do become plans . . . those visions that have the potential to become reality . . . are what lead to positive changes. Think about it, no change can become a reality before it is an idea.
Never stop processing and dreaming . . . don’t let the pessimist stunt the churning of positive thoughts for a brighter future. I often say, “we are going to change public education in America from Hilliard.” In my heart of hearts I truly believe we are on the path to do this work better – not for us but for the children we are educating to be the next generation of American leaders.
You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the your last one.
Reflect on the past . . . don’t yearn for it. Learn from your mistakes . . . don’t relive them. Cherish your successes . . . don’t lean on them. Build strong connections . . . keep working on them.
The future is what you make of it . . . reliving the past isn’t an option.
We wake each morning and get to start a fresh page, a new narrative that is our lives. The previous chapters have brought us to today . . . what you create today is up to you.
Be discipline, be true to yourself, and serve others . . . start that next chapter right now.
Being a positive leader doesn’t mean you put on a smile and accept mediocrity. It means you see the potential in others and inspire and challenge them to reach it. – Jon Gordon
We spend a lot of time talking about culture. There are those who mistakenly think that good leaders create culture by supporting everyone in the organization. There are those who mistakenly think that a leader is blindly loyal and encourages everyone to do their own thing.
The truth is a leader builds a positive culture by leading with clarity and focus. We are all leaders, but we also must be aligned in common purpose and mission. Leaders don’t accept mediocrity . . . they inspire greatness. Leaders don’t permit behavior that contradicts the organizations values . . . leaders challenge the organization to weed-out mediocrity.
And yes, leaders must have courageous conversations. Leaders must, from time to time, make decisions that some people may not be best for the organization. With clarity comes support and accountability . . . leaders provide support and hold the organization accountable for success.
You are a leader. You control your 20 square feet. Don’t permit mediocrity in your space.