Paralyzing. That’s how someone this week described the potential feeling of all there is to do as a building principal. She is not paralyzed, but she knows the danger in ever trying to think about it all at once.
There is instructional leadership. Math and reading small groups, data-driven decision-making, Professional Learning Communities.
There is parent and community engagement, social emotional learning, mental health supports.
There are Halloween parties and after school clubs and volleyball games and pep rallies.
There is student discipline, and there are student celebrations.
And then I was driving home from work this week, and I noticed one of our principals out in the parking lot helping to jump-start a car. They even have jumper cables.
The role of building leader is enormous. It can feel overwhelming if you let it. The same could be said of most leadership roles.
So how are the great ones doing it?
A mentor shared an axiom with me this week. If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. Prioritizing is essential in effective leadership. The best leaders avoid feeling paralyzed by staying focused on a few key things. Asking some important questions can help.
- What should I be focusing on today, this week, this semester?
- How will I keep the first things first?
- Who can help me?
That last question is sometimes the hardest. Delegating and asking for help does not come naturally to many people. The same mentor once told me that if someone else can be doing something, they probably should be doing it. Building leadership is a big job. Surrounding yourself with talented and engaged people helps but only if you let them. One of the most powerful things you can do as a principal or a leader of any kind is to recognize and develop the leadership skills in others. Collaboration and shared decision-making is not only good for your climate and culture, it lightens your load. The best leaders are not trying to do it all by themselves.
None of this is to say that other people in our schools and in your organizations are not also doing overwhelming work. I’ll do a whole blog on what we ask our teachers to do everyday. They are heroes, truly amazing!
But this week I have been overwhelmed by all of the things our principals are doing. They are anything but paralyzed, and our students are all the better for their efforts. I just wanted to say thank you!